The results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) reveals a state of “educational stagnation,” according to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The performance by American 15 year-olds was ranked as average in science and reading literacy and was below average in math as compared to other industrialized countries’ students.
Eric A. Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson and Ludger Woessmann write in Education Next that Duncan warned that the nation’s education problems are not related to low-income or poor areas of the country.
The “educational challenge in America is not just about poor kids in poor neighborhoods,” he said. “It’s about many kids in many neighborhoods. The [test] results underscore that educational shortcomings in the United States are not just the problems of other people’s children.”
In an EN survey given to a representative sample of affluent Americans in 2013, participants were asked to evaluate the nation’s schools and schools in their own communities. Only 15% gave the nation’s schools a grade of A or B. Their community schools were given either an A or a B by 54% of the participants.
73% thought that local schools were doing a good job at teaching talented students, while 45% thought their community schools were doing a good job of educating the students who were less talented.
EN wanted to find out if the assessment that students who were more talented were being well taught was accurate. Since math seems to be tied into the nation’s economic success, they paid more attention to math performance. From a global point of view, US schools do just as poorly teaching children from families with better education backgrounds as they do teaching children from families that are less well educated. The US ranked 27th among the 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries that were part of the PISA testing. Advantaged youth ranked as a group at 28th; disadvantaged students ranked 20th.
As grim as all this sounds, there were areas in which the US excelled. Six states — Montana, Minnesota, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Jersey — had “high proficiency rates” among the students from families with high levels of education. These six states would rank in the top 13 of the OECD countries that participated in PISA.
The data from each state is derived from the results of a representative sample of scores of 8th grade students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Country by country data came from the PISA test. Education Next explained that:
To assess overall performance, we identify the percentage of students in the high school class of 2015 who are performing at proficient and advanced levels of achievement in math. (While not reported here, we also looked at reading and science, and the results are broadly similar to those for math.) We focus on how each state within the United States ranks relative to all 33 other OECD countries.