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December 5, 2013

U.S. students showing no progress in world

The United States has made no measurable progress in its average scores for the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) since the program began in 2000.

The National Center for Education Statistics released the results of the 2012 PISA on Tuesday. The PISA measures the performance of 15-year-old students in mathematics literacy, science literacy, and reading literacy, as well as optional computer-based assessments.

In a statement, Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics,  said, “PISA’s goal is to assess students’ preparation for the challenges of life as young adults. PISA assesses the application of knowledge in mathematics, science, and reading literacy to problems within a real-life context.

The 2012 PISA was administered to 65 education systems, including all 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The other 31 systems were other countries and subnational education systems.

In the U.S., Connecticut, Florida, and Massachusetts opted to have separate samples of public schools and public-school students in order to get state-level results.

In mathematics literacy, the U.S. average score was 481, which was lower than the OECD average of 494. The highest average score was 613 in Shanghai, China, and the lowest was 368 in Peru.

Countries that scored on the same level as the U.S. for mathematics are Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the Russian Federation, and the Slovak Republic.

Only 9 percent of U.S. students were identified as top-performers in mathematics literacy, which is lower than the OECD average of 13 percent. Shanghaihad the most top-performers with 55 percent.

In science literacy, the US average score was 497, which was not measurably different than the OECD average. The average scores ranged from Shanghai’s 580 to Peru’s 373.

Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, and Spain all scored on the same level as the U.S. Seven percent of U.S. students were identified as top-performers in science literacy, which was not measurably different that the OECD average.

Again, Shanghai and Singapore had the highest percentages of top-performing students with 27 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

In reading literacy, the U.S. average score of 498 was not measurably different than the OECD average, and scored similarly to Austria, Denmark, France, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Norway, Portugal, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

The top average score was 570 in Shanghai, and the lowest average score was 384 in Peru. Twenty-five percent of Shanghai  students were identified as top-performers, while only 8 percent of U.S. students were identified as such (the same as the OECD average).

As far as state-level results, Florida’s scores were similar to the U.S. average in reading literacy and science literacy, and lower than the U.S. average in mathematics literacy. In mathematics, science, and reading literacy, Massachusetts and Connecticut both scored above the U.S. average scores.

For the optional computer-based mathematics literacy assessment, which was administered in 32 education systems, the U.S. had an average score of 498 and was not measurably different from the OECD average. Countries that scored similarly to the U.S. are Austria, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, the Russian Federation, and the Slovak Republic.

On the optional computer-based reading literacy assessment, administered to the same 32 education systems as the computer-based math assessment, the US had an average score of 511. The score is higher than the average OECD score of 497. The U.S. scored similarly to Australia, Belgium, Chinese Taipei, France, Ireland, Italy, and Macao-China.

On both the mathematics and reading optional assessments, Singapore had the highest average scores of 566 and 567, respectively. Colombia had the lowest average scores on both assessments, with 397 in mathematics and 396 in reading.

The PISA has been administered every three years since its beginning in 2000.

 The complete report for the 2012 PISA is available at the National Center for Education Statistics website, at

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