Friday, December 9, 2016

PISA puts US near OECD average in science and reading, lagging in math, behind Canada

Newly released PISA results show American results for 15-year-olds to be near OECD average results in science, but clearly behind Canadian outcomes. Shown below, reading results look similar, while mathematics results put the United States behind the OECD member nations (mostly thosewith advanced economies but including "emerging countries like Mexico, Chile and Turkey.") Canada's well ahead of the U.S on those subjects as well. Compared to 2009, our science and reading results are pretty flat, and mathematics seems to be losing ground.

PISA identifies seven levels of student proficiency (1b, 1a, and then 2-6). For science, the newly released report specifies that "Level 2 is considered the baseline level of science proficiency that is required to engage in science-related issues as a critical and informed citizen," and the scoring is similar for reading and mathematics. The report treats Level 2 as an important benchmark and notes that:
Only in Canada, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong (China), Japan, Macao (China) and Singapore do at least four out of five 15-year-old students master the baseline level of proficiency in science, reading and mathematics. These countries show that there are countries on nearly every continent that could achieve the goal of universal basic skills by 2030.
Notice Canada! Starting now, we have a national demonstration of what is possible much closer than past reports on Singapore, South Korea, or Finland. 

PISA reporting identifies students scoring at either part of Level 1 or below as low achievers, while students at Levels 5 and 6 are considered top performers.

So here's the reading pattern, much like science:
Mathematics looks sharply worse.
Looking at trends, Americans do not see what we want to see. In science and reading, results are pretty similar to 2009, but we hoped for noticeable improvement. In mathematics, there's more to worry about, with clear increases in low achievers and decreases in top performers.
PISA does, however, report on one positive trend for the United States:
While between 2006 and 2015 no country or economy improved its performance in science and equity in education simultaneously, the relationship between socio-economic status and student performance weakened in nine countries where mean science scores remained stable. The United States shows the largest improvements in equity during this period. 
The full PISA report is available here, with the data above coming from Volume I of the release.

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!