U.S. teens not making the grade in worldwide math test

U.S. teens' math test scores in 2015 dropped slightly while reading and science were not measurably different in the Program for International Student Assessment tests. Photo by Zurijeta/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 (UPI) — American teen’s test scores are lagging compared with students around the world, a report released Tuesday indicates.

In 2015, math test scores for U.S. 15-year-olds dropped slightly while reading and science were not measurably different in the Program for International Student Assessment tests.

The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Developmentadministered the two-hour test to about 540,000 students worldwide, including 5,700 in the United States. For most students, the tests were administered on computers.

Among the 72 nations, the United States ranked 40th in math, 25th in science and 24th in reading.

The U.S. average math score was 470 on a 1,000-point scale, below the overall OECD test average of 490 — 11 points lower than in 2012 and 17 points below 2009, the National Center for Education Statistics said.

The U.S. score was 535 in reading and in science it was 496. The average worldwide in those areas was 493 each.

East Asian countries had the highest scores and Singapore was No. 1 in all three subjects — 556 in science, 535 in reading and 564 in math. Canada, Estonia and Finland also earned high scores on certain tests.

“We’re losing ground — a troubling prospect when, in today’s knowledge-based economy, the best jobs can go anywhere in the world,” U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a statement. “As the new PISA results show, U.S. students are scoring well behind their peers in top-performing nations.”

Around one in 10 students overall perform at the highest level in science. And more than one in five students are below baseline proficiency. Only in Canada, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong (China), Japan, Macao (China), Singapore and Vietnam at least nine out of 10 who are 15 years old “master the basics that every student should know before leaving school,” the OECD said.

“A decade of scientific breakthroughs has failed to translate into breakthroughs in science performance in schools,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel GurrĂ­a in London. “Every country has room for improvement, even the top performers. With high levels of youth unemployment, rising inequality, a significant gender gap, and an urgent need to boost inclusive growth in many countries, more must be done to ensure every child has the best education possible.”

Massachusetts, North Carolina and Puerto Rico participated as international benchmarking systems and received separate scores from the United States. Massachusetts’ average scores were higher than the United States and the average scores in all three subjects. North Carolina’s average scores were not statistically different from the U.S. average scores for all three subjects.


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