The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

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The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

PISA Results Reveal 'Educational Stagnation' in United States

December 4, 2013 - Posted by Patrick McNeil

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released results this week for the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which tests 15-year-old students in more than 60 countries in mathematics, reading, and science. Since results were last released in 2009, the United States’ scores, according to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, represent “a picture of educational stagnation.”

This year the United States ranked 26th in mathematics, 21st in science, and 17th in reading, while Asian countries and regions – such as Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea – topped the list. For the United States, there was no measurable change in scores since 2009.

In a statement released on Tuesday, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said our rankings have remained steady because the United States has failed to address the effect poverty has on PISA performance.

“Our students from well-to-do families have consistently done well on the PISA assessments. For students who live in poverty, however, it’s a different story. Socioeconomic factors influence students’ performance in the United States more than they do in all but few of the other PISA countries,” Van Roekel said. “It’s time for our nation to face up to that challenge, and we must start by acknowledging that the effects of poverty are pervasive. Children can’t learn in school if they lack nutritious food, a safe place to sleep or access to health care, and our society must address those needs.”

He notes that high-performing nations fully fund all of their schools and make teaching an attractive profession, and suggests the United States embrace the Common Core Standards, which 46 states and the District of Columbia have already adopted.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, also suggests learning from the top performing nations, where they ensure that students with the most needs get the most resources.

“The crucial question we face now is whether we have the political will to move away from the failed policies and embrace what works in high-performing countries so that we can reclaim the promise of public education,” Weingarten said.

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