U.S. Teens Lag Other Industrial Nations in Math

The gap between American high school students and teens in other developed countries is widening when it comes to literacy in mathematics according to results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

The results of the exam that was administered to 510,000 students in 65 different nations in 2012 painted a global picture of teen academic performance in the industrial world.

The testing, which is managed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), focused on the three major subjects of reading, mathematics, and science literacy.

Select findings from PISA 2012 showed that American students were average according to OECD standards when it came to science and reading, but only nine percent scored at proficiency level 5 or above in math. OECD standards call for at least 13 percent of American 15-year-olds to be proficient in mathematics.

“Performance of our 15-year-olds has been flat in the past decade on all three of the subjects,” Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics told the AFRO. “Our younger kids have been making sustained improvements over time. When we get to our 15 and 17-year-olds we don’t see that same improvement, and that’s not the case in the other countries.”

Buckley said it’s hard to tell whether the performance of American students has something to do with school or general exposure to other learning opportunities throughout their development.

With 625 being the highest score, American students produced an average score 483 in math for the year 2003. That mean dropped to 474 in 2006, but rose again to 487 in 2009. An average of 481 was produced for 2012.

The PISA was first given to students in 2000, and has been administered every three years since.

The test is meant to gauge not only how students are doing in the classroom, but also how prepared they are to use the knowledge they have accumulated in real life situations as adults.

According to results, American 15- and 16-year-olds ranked 26th in math, 17th in reading, and 21st in science when it came to the 34 countries that are also members of the OECD.

Shanghai took first place in all three categories, while second and third place alternated between Hong Kong and Singapore.

“The rankings aren’t that important- the lack of progress is a lot more important,” said Buckley. “It’s not a race. We’re not in competition with these other countries but when a cohort of our kids aren’t improving over time, that’s something to be concerned about.”

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U.S. Teens Lag Other Industrial Nations in Math


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