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ERIC Number: ED518219
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Mar
Pages: 15
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
American Achievement in International Perspective
Petrilli, Michael J.; Scull, Janie
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
The release of the latest results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) garnered all the usual headlines about America's lackluster performance and the rise of competitor nations. To be sure, the findings--that America's fifteen-year-olds perform in the middle of the pack in both reading and math--are disconcerting for a nation that considers itself an international leader, priding itself on its home-grown innovation, intellect, and opportunity. But the headlines--and the national averages--don't tell the whole story. Particularly among other industrialized and advanced nations, the United States still has the upper hand in one critical measure--size. In this brief analysis, prepared in advance of this month's International Summit on the Teaching Profession, the authors dug into the data to examine four questions: (1) What proportion of students in each country is particularly high-achieving?; (2) Likewise, what proportion of each country's students is low-achieving?; (3) In raw numbers, how many high-achieving and low-achieving students does each country produce?; and (4) How do America's racial and ethnic groups stack up against students in other countries, at both the high and low ends of the achievement spectrum? To answer these four questions, the authors compared the United States to thirty-three other nations belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). While additional countries and polities participated in the 2009 PISA, the OECD nations represent the majority of those at the upper end of the performance spectrum--i.e., the countries with which the United States is most often compared. The most notable exception here is Shanghai, which came out on top of the 2009 PISA results, producing a bona fide "Sputnik moment" for the U.S.; as a city and non-OECD entity, however, Shanghai was not included in the authors' international comparison. This paper presents some of the key findings. First, the good news for the United States: (1) "In raw numbers", the United States produces many more high-achieving students than any other OECD nation. In both reading and math, the U.S. produces more high achievers than France, Germany, and the United Kingdom "combined"; (2) The U.S. produces a particularly large number of high-achieving readers. In this subject, the U.S. also produces more high achievers than Japan and Korea combined; and (3) Racial and ethnic segments of the U.S. population rival overall populations in other countries as well: (a) Proportionally, Asian American students are the best readers in the world, and white Americans are bested only by Finns and New Zealanders; and (b) In raw numbers, high-achieving black American readers outnumber high-achieving readers in each of twenty-three OECD countries, including Belgium, Finland, and New Zealand. The bad news are: (1) "In raw numbers", the United States produces many more low-achieving students than any other OECD nation, including even two developing economies, Mexico and Turkey; (2) In both reading and math, the U.S. produces more low achievers than France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom "combined"; and (3) Approximately 50 percent of black American students are low-achieving in math--a higher proportion of students than is found in any OECD country save Chile and Mexico. In reading, only Mexico does worse. (Contains 9 figures and 3 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Numerical/Quantitative Data; Reports - Research
Education Level: Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Identifiers - Location: United States
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: Program for International Student Assessment