However, according to the same report, the United States is expected to become more competitive soon as more states fully implement the higher, more rigorous Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English language arts.
PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment, is administered every three years to a random sample of students in the United States and more than 30 other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries throughout the world. PISA just released its results from the 2012 assessment.
This assessment not only measures students’ content knowledge in reading, science and mathematics, but the test also measures other cross-curricular skills, such as problem solving.
In 2012, more than 6,000 randomly selected 15-year-old students chosen from 161 randomly selected schools in the United States took the PISA. No Idaho schools were selected to participate.
According to the 2012 results, students in the United States performed below average in mathematics among the 34 countries tested. U.S. students scored close to the average in reading and science.
Across all subject areas, American students’ performance has remained stagnant, not showing a change in performance over time.
Still, student from the United States excelled in some areas. In mathematics, for example, students demonstrated they could read data directly from a table or diagram or use a formula to calculate answers well.
However, they struggled in applying mathematics in a real-world situation.
But the report highlights how students in the United States will likely make progress in the coming years. The new Common Core State Standards are expected to address the weaknesses the PISA found.
The PISA report states, “It may be that U.S. students seldom work on well-crafted tasks that situate algebra, proportional relationships and rational numbers within authentic contexts. More generally, perhaps the application problems that most students encounter today are the worst of all worlds: fake applications that strive to make the mathematics curriculum more palatable, yet do no justice either to modeling or to the pure mathematics involved. Providing students with the necessary ‘opportunity to learn’ will therefore be necessary in order to develop the skills in students that allow them to make frequent and productive use of mathematics in their work and life.”
The new Common Core State Standards, known as Idaho Core Standards in Idaho, emphasize critical-thinking and problem-solving skills as well as teaching students how to apply the lessons they learn in real-world situations. Therefore, through these standards, students in many states across the United States are expected to become more competitive with students in other countries in the near future.
Here are some other highlights from the PISA report:
- PISA was able to break out scores from some states with larger groups of students tested. In the United States, Massachusetts continued to rank as a top performer with its average scores ranking above the OECD average in all three subject areas.
- PISA reported that while the U.S. spends more per student than most countries, this has not translated into better academic performance. For example, students in the Slovak Republic perform at the same level as students in the United States, even though that country spends about half of what the United States spends on average per student.