US Lags Behind Other Countries In Education

The results of some of the biggest cross-national tests are in and we would like to x-ray the performance of U.S students.

PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) is an international body that measures reading ability, math and science literacy and other key skills among 15-year-olds in dozens of developed and developing countries around the world. In their most recently published results, it is indicated that U.S students fall in the middle of the pack amongst other students of the different countries. As of 2015, the U.S was placed at a dismal 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science. This is quite contrary to what one would expect.

Another long-standing testing body is NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress), a project of the Federal Education Department. NAEP released its 2015 finding that shows a decline in the math scores of fourth and eighth graders; the first since 1990.

The average fourth-grade NAEP math score in 2015 was 240 (on a scale of 0 to 500), and this was at the same level as in 2009, down from 242 in 2013. The average eighth-grade score was 282 in 2015, compared with 285 in 2013; that score was the lowest since 2007. (The NAEP has only tested 12th-graders in math four times since 2005; their 2015 average score of 152 on a 0-to-300 scale was one point lower than in 2013 and 2009).

In another rating, the 2015 NAEP results rated 40% of fourth-graders, 33% of eighth-graders and 25% of 12th-graders as “proficient” or “advanced” in math and rated far fewer fourth- and eighth-graders as “below basic,” the lowest performance level (18% and 29%, respectively, versus 50% and 48% in 1990), it is pertinent to note that improvement in the top levels appears to have also stalled out. (Among 12th-graders, 38% scored at the lowest performance level in math, a point lower than in 2005).

In testing for proficiency in science, the NAEP results indicated some improvement in the performance of the students. For instance, between 2009 and 2015, the average scores of both fourth- and eight-graders showed some improvement from 150 to 154 (on a 0-to-300 scale), even while results for the 12th-graders remained at an average score of 150. In 2015, 38% of fourth-graders, 34% of eighth-graders and 22% of 12th-graders were rated proficient or better in science while the about 24% of fourth-graders, 32% of eighth-graders and 40% of 12th-graders were rated “below basic.”

The disturbing nature of some of these statistics is what prompted a team at Rutgers University to analyze the NAEP data to try to identify the reasons for the drop in scores.  


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