Thursday, December 06, 2007

U.S. Students Not Comparing Well With Others

It seems as though American students continue underperforming when compared to many of their international peers:
Finland and South Korea have topped the world in a new student ranking survey.

According to the OECD, the two countries lead the world when it comes to education, especially in reading and science.

In particular, Finnish students ranked top in science, while South Korean teenagers were first for reading.

The results come from the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment, which yearly tests 400,000 15-year-olds in 57 countries.

The students are tested on mathematics, literacy, and particularly on their knowledge of science.

The United States, Spain and Italy were among the 32 countries whose education was found to be below the average.
Over at the National Center for Education Statistics, they have this:(emphasis added)
Highlights from PISA 2006: Performance of U.S. 15-Year-Old Students in Science and Mathematics Literacy in an International Context

This report summarizes the performance of U.S. students on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), comparing the scores of U.S. 15-year-old students in science and mathematics literacy to the scores of their peers internationally in 2006.

PISA, first implemented in 2000, is sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental agency of 30 member countries. In 2006, fifty-seven jurisdictions participated in PISA, including 30 OECD jurisdictions and 27 non-OECD jurisdictions.

The results show the average combined science literacy scale score for U.S. students to be lower than the OECD average. U.S. students scored lower on science literacy than their peers in 16 of the other 29 OECD jurisdictions and 6 of the 27 non-OECD jurisdictions. Twenty-two jurisdictions (5 OECD jurisdictions and 17 non-OECD jurisdictions) reported lower scores compared to the United States in science literacy.

On the mathematics literacy scale, U.S. students scored lower than the OECD average. Thirty-one jurisdictions (23 OECD jurisdictions and 8 non-OECD jurisdictions) scored higher on average, than the United States in mathematics literacy in 2006. In contrast, 20 jurisdictions (4 OECD jurisdictions and 16 non-OECD jurisdictions) scored lower than the United States in mathematics literacy in 2006.

Differences in student performance based on the selected student characteristics of sex and race/ethnicity are also examined. Following the presentation of results, a technical appendix describes the study design, data collection, and analysis procedures that guided the administration of PISA 2006 in the United States and in the other participating jurisdictions.
Get the full report at the bottom of this page.

Not surprisingly, Queen Of All Testing And Classroom Teacher Accountability U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings
is not happy with the results:
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) today released results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA assesses science, math and reading skills of 15-year-old students in the principal industrialized countries every three years. In 2006, all 30 OECD-member countries and 27 additional countries and other jurisdictions (e.g., Hong Kong) participated in PISA.

Regarding the 2006 PISA results, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today made the following statement:

The PISA results released today offer additional data on how America's students are stacking up against their peers in other countries. With scores flat since 2003, the U.S. continues to score below the OECD average and in the middle of all countries assessed.

While disappointing, it speaks to what President Bush has long been advocating for: more rigor in our nation's high schools; additional resources for advanced courses to prepare students for college-level studies; and stronger math and science education. In fact, students are being assessed in science under No Child Left Behind this school year. And, the President has proposed making science assessments an element of states' accountability calculations.

Through such initiatives as the Academic Competitiveness Council and National Math Panel, we're bringing research-based strategies and best practices into our classrooms. By equipping educators with more data to customize instruction, we're laying the groundwork to strengthen math and science education. It's the right course for our students and our workforce.
We're surprised that Queen Secretary Spellings didn't incorporate her pet phrase "In God We Trust All Others Bring Data" into the Department of Education's press release.

Here's a thought: Maybe someone should hold her accountable for this chronic underperformance...

Not likely, given this administration's demonstrated propensity to overlook poor performance at the top.

It seems as though those of us who serve in the classroom are the only ones who get hammered for low test scores "underperformance."

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