BASIS.ed Remains Bright Spot in International Assessment U.S. Declines in Math, Stagnates in Reading and Science

The Organisation for Economic and Co-operation and Development released new results for its well-regarded PISA exam on Tuesday, December 6, and American students’ scores stagnated in Reading and Science, while continuing to drop in the other tested subject, Mathematics.
The scores are officially for the 2015 PISA exam; the test is administered to 15-year-olds every three years.

PISA – which stands for Programme for International Student Assessment – gives a comprehensive assessment exam that allows educational results to be studied via a common standard across nations. The exam has three subject categories: Math, Reading, and Science. The 2015 test was taken by 540,000 students in 72 nations, including nearly 6,000 American students. The previous two exams were given in 2012, and 2009.

Scores on each of the three subjects are out of 1,000 possible points. On the 2015 exam, Singapore had the highest average score in Science, at 556. The U.S. scored 496; the worldwide average was 493.

Singapore’s average Reading score was 535, while U.S. students posted an average of 497.

However, the Mathematics scores were most troublesome for the U.S. students, who posted an average of 470 – 11 points lower than 2012, and 18 points lower than 2009. The worldwide average was 490. Students in Singapore, at the top of the scale, scored 564.

The perception of the continued decline of American students’ achievement compared to the rest of the industrialized world was quick, and widespread. The Los Angeles Times story quoted the acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, Peggy Carr, as saying that “a higher percentage of America’s students scored at the lowest levels and a lower percentage reached top levels compared with students in other industrialized OECD countries.”

In a piece headlined “Internationally, U.S. Students Are Falling”, U.S. News & World Report quotes U.S. Education Secretary John King, Jr. saying that “We’re losing ground — a troubling prospect when, in today’s knowledge-based economy, the best jobs can go anywhere in the world.”

Education reporter Amanda Ripley, author of the best-seller “The Smartest Kids In The World: And How They Got That Way,” wrote in the UpShot section of the New York Times that “[A]ffluence is no guarantee of better results, particularly in science and math: The latest PISA data (which includes private-school students) shows that America’s most advantaged teenagers scored below their well-off peers in science in 20 other countries, including Canada and Britain.”

The BASIS.ed network’s team echoed the headlines, and the suggestions.

“Our students will always have local friends, but they will face global competitors in their future careers,” said Mark Reford, BASIS Educational Ventures’ Chief Development Officer.

He continued, “PISA makes people feel very awkward in the education business because it represents transparency. It exposes self-serving parochialism. Private schools in particular are allergic to such transparency and do all they can to manipulate or conceal the academic data like AP results that will compare their performance on a level playing field with other kinds of schools.

“The academic reputation of many private schools floats on a bubble that cannot survive external adjudication. This is most markedly the case in math and science education as the 2015 PISA results clearly expose!”

The PISA exam is related to an exam that 15-year-old students at BASIS.ed, and other American schools, take every spring: the OECD Test for Schools (based on PISA).

The OECD exam can be benchmarked against nations, and other students and school systems, across the world. The OECD exam provides descriptive information and analyses on the skills and creative application of knowledge of 15-year-old students in math, reading, and science. Notably, the exam is widely considered to be best available assessment tool of students’ ability to apply knowledge to real-world issues and problems. Students on eight BASIS.ed campuses took the OECD exam in 2016.

Needless to say, BASIS.ed students have repeatedly scored higher than the best nations and best school systems in the world on the OECD Test for Schools (based on PISA).


Phil Handler

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