U.S. student’s poor scores on PISA 2012 test

es_student_take_test_v2The 2012 results for the Program for International Student Assessment were just released on Tuesday by the U.S. Secretary of Education. More than 510,000 15-year-olds students in 65 different countries and education systems took part in the 2012 test. According to the results, U.S. schools are utterly stagnant in all subjects (reading, math and science), while others are moving forward.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a comprehensive, standardized test created by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It measures the performance of students around the world, and, once that information has been gathered, OECD measures and ranks the nations according to how well their students scored on the tests. The tests are a mixture of open-ended and multiple-choice questions, which lasts about 2 hours to complete. It’s given every three years in enough countries for the OECD until it reaches “80 percent of the world’s economy.”

Ever since the last time the test was given in 2009, the results of the most recent PISA are fairly disturbing for Americans. U.S. student’s scores barely changed. The U.S. isn’t No. 1. It’s not even among the top 10 or the top 20 nations. When compared to other countries, particularly in Shanghai, South Korea and other East Asian provinces or countries, their scores soared, according to the 2012 results. Compared to 64 other countries and economies, U.S. teenager’s scores were below average in math, while only maintaining average in reading and science. This pattern hasn’t changed much ever since the PISA test was first given in 2000.

Since U.S. scores are stagnant and failed to improve on recent PISA test, it brought concerns for many policymakers. “These numbers are very discouraging,” said Eric A. Hanushek, an expert on educational policy and a Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, told NBC News. “They say that we have to work more seriously at trying to raise the performance that leads to these scores.” Due to the lack of performance in the results, it shows undeniable proof that U.S. schools are failing to prepare students for the 21st century. Results like these are leading some officials to believe that it brings poor future economic security for the United States, because the skills of these workers will determine the growth and strength of the U.S. economy.

Research shows a perfect correlation between academic achievement and long run economic growth. If America could bring its students up to German standards, history indicates that the economic growth it would generate would increase the average American worker’s income by 12 percent every year for the next 80 years. Reaching Canada’s performance level would increase our workers’ incomes by an average of 20 percent. The increase would accumulate ten times the amount of cash lost as a result of the 2008 recession and would help balance the federal budget without raising a dollar in taxes or cutting a dollar in spending.

At the bottom end of the performance scale, the United States has a below-average share of top performers in mathematics. Only 2% of American students were able reach the highest level of math performance. According to OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills, this report finds that skills in mathematics have a major impact on individuals’ life chances. Poor education in mathematics limits access to employment and widens social inequality. They also found that people with strong mathematical skills tend to be volunteers and more likely to trust others. In short, education and skills really do matter.

In the first few years of NCLB, there was a rise in the performance of fourth graders and eighth graders. However, states were more worried about protecting their failing schools and below-average teachers than they cared about preparing American students to compete in the global economy. As a result, after the initial success of NCLB, there has been a stagnation in student improvement. America’s approach with the NCLB is ineffective, which will require obvious fixes soon

America is currently improving its educational performance through President Obama’s “Race to the Top” program, administered in 2009. This program encourages U.S. states to adopt internationally benchmarked standards and assessments, which to help prepare students for success in college and the workplace. This initiative also builds useful student data systems, help low-performing schools, and to retain and reward teachers. Also, the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) would undoubtedly improve PISA results, in math, for American classrooms, according to a key finding from the US Country Note on PISA.

In many respects, teachers are the foundation for success for students. In America, top school systems focus on teacher selection and retention, and provide strong pathways for career growth for students. They also create an environment for teachers to be innovative and share good practices. U.S. schools must implement teachers that will create networks of innovation, which will likely improve PISA scores.

The test scores are strong evidence for those who argue that the United States is losing global competitiveness. In a global economy, competitiveness and future job prospects will depend on what people can do with what they know. Young people are the future, so America must do everything it can to improve its education system and the prospects of future generations. It’s urgent for young people to gain the skills they need to succeed.

Since the rates of economic growth have a huge impact on the future well-being of the nation, there is a simple message: A country ignores the quality of its schools at its economic downfall. The United States must take necessary actions simultaneously. According to American Education Secretary Arne Duncan, investment towards early education, raising academic standards, making college affordable, and recruiting and retaining top-notch educators would be several actions that must be adopted to raise academic scores. Then, when the next 2016 PISA scores are released, America might finally get out the stagnation. If not, the economic prosperity will be at risk.


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