More than half a million 15-year-olds around the world took the Program for International Student Assessment in 2012. The test, which is administered every three years and focuses largely on math, but includes minor sections in science and reading, is often used as a snapshot of the global state of education. The results, published today, show the U.S. trailing behind educational powerhouses like Korea and Finland. The kids in U.S. schools differ so much from many other countries. We have recesses in elementary school but in high school and middle school we don’t have recess. We are able to eat at school unlike some schools.
One in four U.S. students did not reach the PISA baseline level 2 of mathematics proficiency. At this level, “students begin to demonstrate the skills that will enable them to participate effectively and productively in life,” according to the PISA report. The U.S. schools are not very good at math. The U.S. has the lowest scores in math compared to other schools in other countries.
It costs money to go to school in the U.S., it also costs money to buy the books and binders that you need for school.The U.S. ranks fifth in spending per student. Only Austria, Luxembourg, Norway, and Switzerland spend more per student. To put this in context: the Slovak Republic, which scores similarly to the U.S., spends $53,000 per student. The U.S. spends $115,000. The PISA report notes that, among OECD countries, “higher expenditure on education is not highly predictive of better mathematics scores in PISA.”
Even the top students in the United States are behind: This year, the PISA report offered regional scores for Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Florida. Massachusetts, which is a high-achieving U.S. state and which averaged above the national PISA score, is still two years of formal schooling behind Shanghai. Fifteen percent of the American score variation is explained by socio-economic differences between students. Less than 10 percent of score variation in Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, and Norway is due to socio-economic differences. The U.S. also has a lower than average number of “resilient students,” which PISA defines as “students who are among the 25 percent most socio-economically disadvantaged students but perform much better than would be predicted by their socio-economic class.” On average, seven percent of students are considered resilient. Thirteen percent of of students in Korea, Hong Kong, Macao-China, Shanghai-China, Singapore, and Vietnam are “resilient.”