Tuesday, April 1, 2014

PISA Report: U.S. Mediocre in Education

Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, recently released its 2012 results for creative problem solving for real life solutions. They looked at numerous countries to determine which 15-year-olds are best equipped to handle various problems.  The results compare the U.S. against other nations in global trends. The results indicate the U.S. is not doing very well and has lots of room for improvement. 

Among the 34 OECD nations the U.S. is performing below average with a ranking of 26 in math, 17 in reading and 21 in science.  The silver lining is that the country has not slipped from previous positions and seems to match their European counterparts. However, the results rank behind a number of Asian countries. 

More strikingly, 26% of American students don’t even reach the minimum requirements to be tested leaving them off the test. This is higher than the average of 23% in other countries. Top performers within the country are 2% compared against 3% for the average and 31% for Shanghai-China. The U.S. is not fostering their highest performers to excel within the classroom and this impacts their capacity to compete in the future. 

Students are still suffering from socio-economic issues. Those from the most disadvantages schools are having a difficult time competing against their counterparts and those of other nations. In the United States 5% of  students that come from the lowest 25% socioeconomic status perform better than their circumstances compared with the 7% international average. It is difficult for them to improve their position in life.

Common Core appears to have some positive benefits with test taking and the researchers indicate that by implementing such standards improvement in achievement can be expected. Likewise, schools that compete against other schools and have some autonomy in their decisions do better than those who don’t. Assessment appears to be only part of the answer as 80% of U.S. schools post data publicly while the average is 45% in other countries.

The educational environment needs the concerted effort of multiple stakeholders. Even though some of the factors in home life may be out of control of decision-makers this shouldn’t slow the advancement of providing better opportunities. Getting students in school at a younger age appears to make an important difference in socializing them to the world of higher academic performance. 

Creative problem solving isn’t something that is born in a vacuum. There are many pieces that come together to solve complex problems. Students that understand the concrete aspects of math (even though math can be subjective at its core root based upon how units are measured) and have the free-flowing thought processes to be creative can build better models and test those models with scientific methods. It is this critical and creative thinking that takes science and makes it practical for public use to solve problems.

PISA (2012). Lessons from PISA 2012 for the United States. Retrieved April 1st, 2014 from

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