How Do American Kids Stack Up on Math, Science, and Reading?

Bob Somerby alerts me that new international test results are in. Here they are:

  • In 8th grade math, American students ranked ninth out of the 56 educational systems that participated in the testing, behind five Asian countries and three others. Average scores are up 17 points since 1995.
  • In 8th grade science, American students ranked tenth out of 56, behind the same five Asian countries plus four others. Average scores are up 12 points since 1995.
  • Reading scores are available only for fourth graders. American students ranked sixth out of 53. Average scores are up 14 points since 2001.

So are American kids hopelessly behind their peers around the world? It doesn’t really look that way to me, though note that not all countries participate in every test. As usual, though, I’m posting the raw data below so you can make up your own mind. The full math/science results are here. The full reading results are here. The full results include more detailed information on what percentage of kids scored at high vs. intermediate levels, as well as some race/gender/state comparisons. Overall, however, U.S. results seem to be about the same no matter how you slice them. Roughly speaking, we’re in the bottom half of the top ten.

UPDATE: I included an incomplete table in the original version of this post, which showed American rankings in math and science slightly higher than they should have been. I’ve corrected both the tables and the text.

UPDATE 2: If you’re wondering why the math and science tables don’t have 56 entries, it’s because several of the “educational systems” are subregions of larger countries, including nine U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. The main table only shows the primary political entities that participated in the testing.


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