Key PISA test results for U.S. students

Here are highlights of the newly released 2012 scores from the Program of International Student Assessment, an exam given every three years to 15 year olds around the world in reading, math and science. In this administration of PISA, 65 countries and education systems participated. Connecticut, Florida, and Massachusetts each participated for the first time as international benchmarking systems and received separate scores.

These results are part of a release on the PISA results from the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics.

Key findings:

MATHEMATICS LITERACY:

  • Average scores in mathematics literacy ranged from 613 in Shanghai-China to 368 in Peru. The U.S. average score was 481, which was lower than the OECD average of 494. The U.S. average was lower than 29 education systems, higher than 26 education systems, and not measurably different than 9 education systems.
  • Massachusetts and Connecticut mathematics literacy average scores were 514 and 506, respectively. Massachusetts’ average was higher than the OECD and U.S. averages and Connecticut’s was higher than the U.S. average but not measurably different than the OECD average. Florida’s average score (467) was lower than the OECD and U.S. averages.
  • The U.S. mathematics literacy average score in 2012 was not measurably different than any earlier comparable time point (2003, 2006 and 2009). There was no measurable change in average mathematics literacy scores in 33 of the 62 education systems, including the United States, that participated in PISA in 2009 and 2012, but 18 education systems’ average scores increased between 2012 and 2009. Percentages of top performing 15-year-old students (those scoring at PISA proficiency level 5 or above) in mathematics literacy ranged from 55 percent in Shanghai-China to nearly 0 percent in Colombia and Argentina. In the United States, 9 percent of 15-year-old students scored at proficiency level 5 or above, which was lower than the OECD average of 13 percent. The U.S. percentage was lower than 27 education systems, higher than 22 education systems, and not measurably different than 13 education systems.
  • The percentage of 15-year-old students performing below PISA proficiency level 2, which is considered a baseline of proficiency by the OECD, ranged from 4 percent in Shanghai-China to 76 percent in Indonesia. In the United States, 26 percent of 15-year-old students scored below level 2, which was higher than the OECD average of 23 percent. The U.S. percentage was higher than 29 education systems, lower than 26 education systems, and not measurably different than 9 education systems.
  • In Massachusetts and Connecticut, 19 and 16 percent of students, respectively, were top performers in mathematics, scoring at PISA proficiency level 5 or above and 18 and 21 percent, respectively, scored below level 2. In Florida, 6 percent of student scored at level 5 or above and 30 percent scored below level 2.

 

SCIENCE LITERACY:

  • Average scores in science literacy ranged from 580 in Shanghai-China to 373 in Peru. The U.S. average science literacy score was 497. This was not different from the OECD average of 501. This was lower than the average in 22 education systems. The U.S. average was higher than 29 education systems and was not measurably different than 13 education systems.
  • Massachusetts and Connecticut science literacy average scores, 527 and 521, respectively, were higher than the OECD and U.S. averages. Florida’s average score (485) was lower than the OECD average and not measurably different than the U.S. average.
  • The U.S. science literacy average score in 2012 was not measurably different than either earlier comparable time point (2006 and 2009). There was no measurable change in average science literacy scores in 43 of the 62 education systems, including the United States, that participated in PISA in 2009 and 2012, but 13 education systems’ average scores increased between 2009 and 2012.
  • Percentages of top-performing 15-year-old students (those scoring at PISA proficiency level 5 or above) in science literacy ranged from 27 percent in Shanghai-China and 23 percent in Singapore to nearly 0 percent in eight education systems. In the United States, 7 percent of 15-year-old students scored at proficiency level 5 or above, which was not measurably different from the OECD average of 8 percent. The U.S. percentage was lower than 17 education systems, higher than 27 education systems, and not measurably different than 15 education systems.
  • In science literacy, the percentage of 15-year-old students performing below PISA proficiency level 2, which is considered a baseline of proficiency by the OECD, ranged from 3 percent in Shanghai-China and 5 percent in Estonia to 67 percent in Indonesia and 68 percent in Peru. In the United States, 18 percent of U.S. 15-year-old students scored below level 2, which was not measurably different from the OECD average of 18 percent. The U.S. percentage was higher than 21 education systems, lower than 29 education systems, and not measurably different than 14 education systems.
  • In Massachusetts and Connecticut, 14 and 13 percent of students, respectively, were top performers in science, scoring at PISA proficiency level 5 or above and 11 and 13 percent, respectively, scored below level 2. In Florida, 5 percent of student scored at level 5 or above and 21 percent scored below level 2.

 

 

READING LITERACY:

  • Average scores in reading literacy ranged from 570 in Shanghai-China to 384 in Peru. The U.S. average score was 498, which was not measurably different from the OECD average of 496. The U.S. average was lower than 19 education systems, higher than 34 education systems, and not measurably different than 11 education systems.
  • Massachusetts and Connecticut reading literacy average scores, 527 and 521, respectively, were higher than the OECD and U.S. averages. Massachusetts was outperformed by only three education systems, and Connecticut by four. Florida’s average score (492) was not measurably different than the OECD or U.S. averages.
  • The U.S. reading literacy average score in 2012 was not measurably different than any earlier comparable time point (2000, 2003, and 2009). There was no measurable change in average reading literacy scores in 34 of the 62 education systems, including the United States, that participated in PISA in 2009 and 2012, but 21 education systems’ average scores increased between 2009 and 2012.
  • Percentages of top performing 15-year-old students (those scoring at PISA proficiency level 5 or above) in reading literacy ranged from 25 percent in Shanghai-China and 21 percent in Singapore to nearly 0 percent in 3 education systems. In the United States, 8 percent of U.S. 15-year-old students scored at proficiency level 5 or above, which was not measurably different from the OECD average of 8 percent. The U.S. percentage was lower than 14 education systems, higher than 33 education systems, and not measurably different than 12 education systems.
  • In reading literacy, the percentage of 15-year-old students performing below PISA proficiency level 2, which is considered a baseline of proficiency by the OECD, ranged from 3 percent in Shanghai-China to 60 percent in Peru. In the United States, 17 percent of U.S. 15-year-old students scored below level 2, which was not measurably different from the OECD average of 18 percent. The U.S. percentage was higher than 14 education systems, lower than 33 education systems, and not measurably different than 17 education systems.
  • In Massachusetts and Connecticut, 16 and 15 percent of students, respectively, were top performers in science, scoring at PISA proficiency level 5 or above and 11 and 13 percent, respectively, scored below level 2. In Florida, 6 percent of student scored at level 5 or above and 17 percent scored below level 2.

 

 

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · December 3, 2013