U.S Lags in Reading, Writing, Math and Science.


Analysis by Reporting San Diego

Dec 12, 2016 (San Diego) the results are out. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) assessment is out. This is a test, taken by 15-year-olds worldwide, that tell us how well different educational systems compare to each other. The test is taken every three years, and the results for the 2015 dataset were published on Dec 6, 2016.

The testing is supposed to help policy makers set education reforms that are effective across borders. In the United States, the reforms have not been effective, and they have become political footballs and embroiled in corporate interests. It also should raise alarms in the United States, where our educational achievement keeps lagging behind Asian economies, such as Singapore, China, and Japan,as well as Canada and a few European Union nations. In the long term, it will make us far less competitive, or innovative.

What are the objective measurements in these tests? For math, they are as follows.

Mathematical performance, for PISA, measures the mathematical literacy of a 15 year-old to formulate, employ and interpret mathematics in a variety of contexts to describe, predict and explain phenomena, recognizing the role that mathematics plays in the world. The mean score is the measure. A mathematically literate student recognizes the role that mathematics plays in the world in order to make well-founded judgments and decisions needed by constructive, engaged and reflective citizens.

2015 Selected countries and jurisdictions 490 (0.4)

International Average (OECD) 490 (0.4)

Australia 494 (1.6)
Austria 497 (2.9)
Belgium 507 (2.4)
Canada 516 (2.3)
Chile 423 (2.5)
Czech Republic 492 (2.4)
Denmark 511 (2.2)
Estonia 520 (2.0)
Finland 511 (2.3)
France 493 (2.1)
Germany 506 (2.9)
Greece 454 (3.8)
Hungary 477 (2.5)
Iceland 488 (2.0)
Ireland 504 (2.1)
Israel 470 (3.6)
Italy 490 (2.8)
Japan 532 (3.0)
Korea 524 (3.7)
Latvia 482 (1.9)
Luxembourg 486 (1.3)
Mexico 408 (2.2)
Netherlands 512 (2.2)
New Zealand 495 (2.3)
Norway 502 (2.2)
Poland 504 (2.4)
Portugal 492 (2.5)
Slovak Republic 475 (2.7)
Slovenia 510 (1.3)
Spain 486 (2.2)
Sweden 494 (3.2)
Switzerland 521 (2.9)
Turkey 420 (4.1)
United Kingdom 492 (2.5)
United States 470 (3.2)

Reading is defined as follows:

Reading performance, for PISA, measures the capacity to understand, use and reflect on written texts in order to achieve goals, develop knowledge and potential, and participate in society. The mean score is the measure.

Averages for PISA reading scale: overall reading, age 15 years by All students [TOTAL], year and jurisdiction: 2015
2015 Selected countries and jurisdictions 493 (0.5)
International Average (OECD) 493 (0.5)
Australia 503 (1.7)
Austria 485 (2.8)
Belgium 499 (2.4)
Canada 527 (2.3)
Chile 459 (2.6)
Czech Republic 487 (2.6)
Denmark 500 (2.5)
Estonia 519 (2.2)
Finland 526 (2.5)
France 499 (2.5)
Germany 509 (3.0)
Greece 467 (4.3)
Hungary 470 (2.7)
Iceland 482 (2.0)
Ireland 521 (2.5)
Israel 479 (3.8)
Italy 485 (2.7)
Japan 516 (3.2)
Korea 517 (3.5)
Latvia 488 (1.8)
Luxembourg 481 (1.4)
Mexico 423 (2.6)
Netherlands 503 (2.4)
New Zealand 509 (2.4)
Norway 513 (2.5)
Poland 506 (2.5)
Portugal 498 (2.7)
Slovak Republic 453 (2.8)
Slovenia 505 (1.5)
Spain 496 (2.4)
Sweden 500 (3.5)
Switzerland 492 (3.0)
Turkey 428 (4.0)
United Kingdom 498 (2.8)
United States 497 (3.4)

Finally, science is defined as follows:

Scientific performance, for PISA, measures the scientific literacy of a 15-year-old in the use of scientific knowledge to identify questions, acquire new knowledge, explain scientific phenomena, and draw evidence-based conclusions about science-related issues. The mean score is the measure.

2015 Selected countries and jurisdictions 493 (0.4)

International Average (OECD) 493 (0.4)

Australia 510 (1.5)
Austria 495 (2.4)
Belgium 502 (2.3)
Canada 528 (2.1)
Chile 447 (2.4)
Czech Republic 493 (2.3)
Denmark 502 (2.4)
Estonia 534 (2.1)
Finland 531 (2.4)
France 495 (2.1)
Germany 509 (2.7)
Greece 455 (3.9)
Hungary 477 (2.4)
Iceland 473 (1.7)
Ireland 503 (2.4)
Israel 467 (3.4)
Italy 481 (2.5)
Japan 538 (3.0)
Korea 516 (3.1)
Latvia 490 (1.6)
Luxembourg 483 (1.1)
Mexico 416 (2.1)
Netherlands 509 (2.3)
New Zealand 513 (2.4)
Norway 498 (2.3)
Poland 501 (2.5)
Portugal 501 (2.4)
Slovak Republic 461 (2.6)
Slovenia 513 (1.3)
Spain 493 (2.1)
Sweden 493 (3.6)
Switzerland 506 (2.9)
Turkey 425 (3.9)
United Kingdom 509 (2.6)
United States 496 (3.2)
Of note on all these results

(China) refers to the four PISA-participating China provinces: Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Guangdong.

Countries that are doing extremely well in these measures also have faster-growing economies. China, for example, has put a lot of stock into developing human capital, which education is part off. In particular, how other countries teach science has started to change. The reason is quite simple. In the past, a few specialists could deal with it. These days science is part of our everyday life. Whether we are talking about quantum mechanics, involved in the computer I am using, and the Internet I use, to complex issues of policy, such as population, resources, and yes, climate change.

A population that has a poor understanding of these subjects is also easier to propagandize. We are in such a situation. Mass media is owned by corporate interests that want a certain result from their news reporting. There is no longer an obligation to inform, or to maintain the public good. This went when first Ronald Reagan removed the Fairness Doctrine and then Bill Clinton removed the ownership limits So as Jeffrey Sachs points out in The Price of Civilization:

He cites a Pew Survey.

” the public knows basic facts about politics, economics, but struggles with specifics.” But when the country must grapple with complex choices about taxes, spending, military outlays, and the rest, the lack of basic knowledge becomes dangerous. A poorly informed public is much more easily swayed by propaganda and much less able to resist the dark maneuvers of the special-interest groups that pull the strings in Washington.”

This starts early with education. A good solid education would produce aware and more politically involved citizens. Most importantly it would also produce human capital that can join the increasingly technological economy. This economy might be able to deal with the shocks of globalization better as well. Short term though this means less profit. In this, we also must place some of the blame in ourselves. The information is out there, within easy grasp. We in many cases chose not to seek it.

Our performance in these tests should be the equivalent of the successful Sputnik launch by the Russians at the height of the Cold War. That spurred the country to dizzying heights in academic achievement. This result should create a level of distress, and even national shame. Instead, these tests are not covered in the evening news, or for the most part the cable news (it was on CNN in a Sunday morning program). It is in the public interest but not the corporate interest, in the short term. Given the transnational nature of the corporate order and control of Washington politics, they can always move abroad looking for talent, or import it through H1B visas. While they will post a story on their websites, the story is not promoted.

There is another aspect, which the test does not cover. This is how our schools are funded and run. Local control and local taxes mean that children attending high-performance suburban schools are not as affected as children attending poorly funded and resourced inner core schools. Then there is the corporate instinct to privatize those systems through charter schools, which will make the issue far worst. In this sense, our pro-corporate ethos will deepen the poverty trap that millions already live in, with the medium-term increase in local costs to a very frayed safety net.

It will increase the deep inequality in which we live. For the record, unlike most observers, I do not place blame on one party or the other. Both parties are right wing, pro-corporate parties that depend on powerful insider special interests that are on a warpath against any measure of a role of government in anything, beyond maybe defense. And even that has been partially privatized and corporatized through the extensive use of contractors. These work primarily in logistics, and even intelligence. While on the surface defense is not related to education, it is. The military will need recruits capable of operating in a highly technological environment. Without that basic education, this also becomes a national security issue.

We are also including a link to the site. This way you can search the results of previous tests.


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