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U.S. PISA Scores Remain Unchanged; Scores of Lower Ranked Countries on the Rise

December 3, 2013—Asian countries still outperform the rest of the world while U.S. scores remain unchanged according to the latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test released December 3. More than 510,000 students in 65 countries and economies participated in the recent test that covered mathematics, reading, and science, with the main focus on mathematics.

Shanghai-China, Hong-Kong China, Japan, and Singapore were top performers in all three areas of the 2012 PISA test. The U.S. scores were in the middle tier: 26th in mathematics, 21st in science, and 17th in reading. The primary concern over these findings is that the U.S. scores are not improving but the scores of the countries ranked lower are on the rise.

The survey reveals several features of the best education systems. Top performers, notably in Asia, place great emphasis on selecting and training teachers, encouraging them to work together, and prioritizing investment in teacher quality, not classroom sizes. They also set clear targets and give teachers autonomy in the classroom to achieve them.

APLU’s Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative (SMTI) was formed to increase the quality, quantity, and diversity of science and mathematics teachers produced by its member institutions. SMTI’s Mathematics Teacher Education Partnership (MTE-Partnership) is comprised of 38 teams across 30 states working collaboratively to redesign secondary mathematics teacher preparation programs. Both initiatives work to improve the preparation of teachers by adopting best practices like those highlighted in the recent PISA report.

Since 2000, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has been evaluating the knowledge and skills of the world’s 15-year-olds through its PISA tests.

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