Yesterday, the 2012 results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) were released. PISA, which is coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, is administered every three years to countries and economies across the world. The largest international study of student performance, PISA assesses students’ ability to apply acquired knowledge in math, science, and reading in real-world contexts. The 2012 test, which was administered globally to more than 510,000 students, revealed some interesting trends.

Nationally, some key observations were that America:

  • Ranked 17th in reading;
  • Ranked 21st in science; and
  • (Most alarmingly) ranked 26th in math–scoring statistically significantly below average for the PISA test. (Comparable math results were seen in Norway, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Lithuania, Sweden, and Hungary.)

In general, these outcomes are not drastically different from PISA results in previous years. In fact, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the results the “picture of educational stagnation.”

However, other countries have demonstrated that it is possible to make progress. For instance, while Ireland and Poland both scored similarly to the US in 2009, both have surpassed the US in performance on the most recent test.

Connecticut Headlines

Meanwhile, Connecticut was one of three American states (along with Florida and Massachusetts) that chose to pay for additional students to take PISA. This allowed the states to receive their own state ratings on the international test.

Massachusetts showed the most impressive results in reading and science, and good results in math. But Connecticut also fared quite well, performing above the national and international averages in reading and science—and keeping up globally in math.

While Connecticut’s 2012 PISA results indicate that we’re doing well on average, there is still a lot of work to do—both nationally and statewide. National results simply are not good enough if America is to compete in a global economy. And within Connecticut, the achievement gap remains a persistent problem.

Looking Ahead

Looking to other high performers though, there are promising trends.

According to the OECglobally, students who have attended preschool show the equivalent of more than an extra year of schooling. 

Perhaps even more importantly, some of our international peers have produced results demonstrating that policy and practice can overcome socio-economic differences. Many participating economies (Australia, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong-China, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, and Macao-China) proved that there doesn’t need to be a strong correlation between socio-economic status and student performance. Because closing the achievement gap is both a moral and economic imperative, Connecticut and America should take this lesson from our international peers seriously. Our students deserve nothing less.