U.S. Scores Flat on International Test; Massachusetts Exceeds Average

Sixth grade students raise their hands during a lesson on the myth of Narcissus at the Brooke Roslindale Charter School in Boston. Massachusetts students scored above the average PISA scores in 2012; other states didn’t fare as well. (AP)

Massachusetts students scored above the international average in reading, math and science literacy on the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), while U.S. scores as a whole remained at or below average in all three subjects.

The 2012 exam marked the first time that three states—Massachusetts, Connecticut and Florida—were compared to other 15-year-old students around the world.

In math, the United States had a higher percentage of low-performing students and a lower percentage of high-performing students compared to the international average. Average scores in the United States have not changed measurably since the PISA was first administered in 2000.

PISA is intended to test student preparation for adult life by assessing their ability to apply knowledge to real-life applications. Sixty-five education systems around the world participated in 2012, in addition to the three U.S. states.

In the United States:

  • Massachusetts scored higher than all but three other education systems (Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore) in reading. In science and math, Massachusetts tied for seventh and 10th place.
  • Connecticut beat the international average in reading and science and scored average in math.
  • Florida scored average in reading and below average in math and science.

Massachusetts has consistently scored well in national and international student assessments.  

"I am tremendously proud of our students for once again performing as global leaders in reading, math and science," said Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. "Education is the Commonwealth's calling card around the world and central to our competitiveness in the global economy. We invest in education because we believe that it is the single most important investment government can make in our collective future."

Specific scores from the three states:

In math:

  • The U.S. average score was 481 compared to the OECD average of 494.
  • The average score in Massachusetts was 514; in Connecticut, 506; in Florida, 467.

In science:

  • The U.S. average score was 497; the OECD average was 501.
  • Massachusetts averaged 527; Connecticut, 521 and Florida, 485.

In reading:

  • The U.S. averaged 498 compared to 496 for the OECD.
  • The average score in Massachusetts was 527; in Connecticut, 521 and in Florida, 492.

"The bitter reality is that American students' performance on international math, science, and reading tests is still sub-par,” said Paul E. Peterson, who directs the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University and is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. “Our kids trail students in most of the industrialized world and lag far behind countries like Germany, Korea, Canada, and Australia to say nothing of the broad grouping of East Asian countries at the top. This embarrassing performance, unchanged even as politicians and citizens profess a keen interest in improving our schools, bodes poorly for the future economic security of the United States.”

Coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the PISA is administered every three years.


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