Not Such Good News

Check out the new study, “Teaching Math to the Talented,” by Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessman from EducationNext (hat tip: Flypaper), which compares the highest-achieving students in America with students outside of the U.S. Using data from NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) and PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), the authors compare representative samples of 15-year-olds in 30 countries, including the most developed countries in the world. From the study:
In short, the percentages of high-achieving students in the United States—and in most of its individual states—are shockingly below those of many of the world’s leading industrialized nations. Results for many states are at a level equal to those of third-world countries.
The data analysis also looks at just white students in order to weed out charges of discrimination. Results:
Twenty-four countries have a larger percentage of highly accomplished students than the 8 percent achieving at that level among the U.S. white student population in the Class of 2009. Looking at just white students places the U.S. at a level equivalent to what all students are achieving in the United Kingdom, Hungary, and Poland. Seven percent of California’s white students are advanced, roughly the percentage for all Lithuanian students.
How about looking only at students with parents who graduated from college and would presumably provide high levels of academic support?
The portion of students in the Class of 2009 with a college-graduate parent who are performing at the advanced level is 10.3 percent. When compared to all students in the other PISA countries, this advantaged segment of the U.S. population was outranked by students in 16 other countries. Nine percent of Illinois students with a college-educated parent scored at the advanced level, a percentage comparable to all students in France and the United Kingdom. The percentage of highly accomplished students from college-educated families in Rhode Island is just short of 6 percent, the same percentage for all students in Spain, Italy, and Latvia.
There’s also a state-by-state ranking. New Jersey does fine when compared to other American school systems. We tied with Washington State for fourth place. The first three, in order, are Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Vermont. 8.7% of Jersey 15-year-olds were rated “advanced” in math. Eighteen countries had similar outcomes: Estonia, France, United Kingdom, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, and Sweden.