With 65 countries participating in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) the results are in and the picture couldn’t be sunnier for Shanghai. The New York Times has a wonderful table showing participant results as a sidebar to “Top Test Scores from Shanghai Stun Educators.” If there are any doubts that U.S. education has fallen behind that of other nations, this study should dispel that notion. Should.
How would our states do if we looked just at the white kids performing at high levels—kids who are not, generally speaking, subject to language barriers or racial discrimination? Or if we looked just at kids with at least one college-educated parent?
As it turned out, even these relatively privileged students do not compete favorably with average students in other well-off countries. On a percentage basis, New York state has fewer high performers among white kids than Poland has among kids overall. In Illinois, the percentage of kids with a college-educated parent who are highly skilled at math is lower than the percentage of such kids among all students in Iceland, France, Estonia, and Sweden.
Which means that even the students we deem most advantaged are not competitive on an international scale.
“I know skeptics will want to argue with the results, but we consider them to be accurate and reliable, and we have to see them as a challenge to get better,” said Arne Duncan. “The United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects. We can quibble, or we can face the brutal truth that we’re being out-educated.”