Posted on December 6, 2016

Math a Concern for US Teens; Science, Reading Flat on Test

Jennifer C. Kerr, AP, December 6, 2016


The latest global snapshot of student performance for 15-year-olds shows declining math scores in the U.S. and stagnant performance in science and reading.

“We’re losing ground–a troubling prospect when, in today’s knowledge-based economy, the best jobs can go anywhere in the world,” said Education Secretary John B. King Jr. {snip}

Math was a stubborn concern. “This pattern that we’re seeing in mathematics seems to be consistent with what we’ve seen in previous assessments . . . everything is just going down,” said Peggy Carr, acting commissioner at the National Center for Education Statistics.

The 2015 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, study is the latest to document that American students are underperforming their peers in several Asian nations. The U.S. was below the international average in math and about average in science and reading. Singapore was the top performer in all three subjects on the PISA test.

More than half a million 15-year-old students in about 70 nations and educational systems took part in the exam, which is coordinated by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD.


-In math, the U.S. average score was 470, below the international average of 490. Average scores ranged from 564 in Singapore to 328 in the Dominican Republic.

-In science, the U.S. average score was 496, about the same as the international average of 493. Average scores ranged from 556 in Singapore to 332 in the Dominican Republic.

-In reading, the U.S. average score was 497, around the same as the international average of 493. Average scores ranged from 535 in Singapore to 347 in Lebanon.

Average scores in math have been on the decline since 2009. Scores in reading and science have been flat during that same time period. Across the globe, American students were outperformed by their counterparts in 36 countries in math; 18 countries in science and 14 countries in reading.


The Bay State participated as an international benchmark in PISA and received scores separate from the United States as a whole. Students in the state performed exceptionally well.

Massachusetts’s average scores were higher than the U.S. and the international average scores in science, math and reading. And for reading, Massachusetts was a top-tier performer, just behind Singapore and tied with Hong Kong and Canada.


[Editor’s Note: Hat tip to Steve Sailer and for the chart below.]