OECD Releases 2012 PISA Data

The 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) findings released today show American students lagging behind other developed countries, particularly those in Asia, in math. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) tested over 510,000 15-year-old students in 65 countries. Released every three years, PISA data are an invaluable resource for education researchers. 

Average scores in mathematics for American students came in at 481, lower than the OECD average of 494 and the highest performing education system, Shanghai-China, at 613. This result ranks the United States lower than 29 education systems, higher than 26, and not measurably different from nine education systems. The pattern was repeated among the highest and lowest scoring students. Nine percent of the American students who were tested scored at the top levels in math, compared with the OECD average of 13 percent and 55 percent for Shanghai-China. The segment of students performing below the baseline of proficiency was 26 percent in the United States, higher than the OECD average of 23 percent and well above Shanghai-China’s 4 percent. Shanghai-China and Singapore performed highest in math, with OECD estimating that students in Shanghai are nearly three years of schooling above most OECD countries.

American students were found to be at the OECD average for science and reading. Eighteen education systems and two American states (Massachusetts and Connecticut) ranked higher than the U.S. average in all three subjects. The 2012 average U.S. scores were not measurably different from average scores in previous years. Overall, 25 countries saw improvements in math and 14 did worse than in previous assessments. 

OECD noted that the survey revealed key features of successful education systems. The top-performing systems, notably in Asia, prioritize teacher quality, emphasize the selection and training of teachers, and encourage collaboration among teachers. 

The 2012 results showed that boys and girls perform similarly in science, but boys outperform girls in math and girls are more successful in reading. The gap for math is widest among top students, and the gap for reading widened in 11 countries between 2000 and 2012. 

Teacher-student relations, which are strongly associated with student engagement with and at school, improved between 2003 and 2012 in all but one country. The disciplinary climate also improved during this period. The share of immigrant students increased from 9% in 2003 to 12% in 2012, and the disadvantage of immigrant students shrank by 11 score points.

In May, AERA’s Institute on Statistical Analysis for Education Policy will focus on international data sets, including PISA.
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