International

Against Other Nations, U.S. Below Par in Science

By Sean Cavanagh — November 29, 2007 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Includes updates and/or revisions.

American teenagers scored lower in science than students in a majority of other industrialized countries participating in a prominent international exam, in results that testing officials said they released early after the scores unexpectedly slipped out abroad.

Fifteen-year-old U.S. students ranked lower, on average, than their peers in 16 other countries, including those in Finland, Canada, Japan, the Czech Republic, and Ireland, out of 30 total industrialized nations, on the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA.

The United States scored in the same statistical category as eight other developed nations in science, including Poland, France, Iceland, and Spain. The U.S. average was higher than the five remaining nations in that category.

At a time when many public officials are decrying American students’ middling performance on the international stage, the latest results seem likely to draw a glum reaction in political and education circles. The United States’ average score of 489 on the PISA science section also fell below the average score among industrialized nations of 500.

In 2003, the last time PISA measured science, U.S. students scored an average of 491, also below the international average for industrialized nations of 500.

Retesting Sought

PISA measures the science ability of 15-year-olds across nations. The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, which sponsors the test, was originally scheduled to release test scores in three subjects—reading, mathematics, and science—on Dec. 4. Science is the major subject examined on this year’s assessment, meaning it was tested in more depth than reading and math.

But in a Nov. 29 statement, officials from the Institute of Education Sciences, the arm of the federal Department of Education that administers the U.S. version of PISA, said that a Spanish publication broke an international embargo on the test results, publishing the science scores in advance of their official release date. After those scores were published, the OECD decided to make the science results public on its Web site, and U.S. officials said they decided to follow suit.

Officials in the United States have already dealt with a significant testing foul-up of their own doing on this year’s PISA. Because of a major printing error in the U.S. version of the reading test—which federal officials blamed on their contractor—the U.S. reading scores were invalidated and will not be released. (“Printing Errors Invalidate U.S. Reading Scores on PISA,” Nov. 28, 2007.)

Shortly after U.S. officials acknowledged that problem, Bob Wise, the president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington organization that seeks to improve high schools, wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and IES Director Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, asking that they attempt to readminister the U.S. version of the PISA reading section. He noted that the next PISA reading results are not slated to be available to the public until 2010.

A spokesman for the IES, Bruce Friedland, said that his agency and the department would give “careful consideration” to the request, but that no decision had been made.

A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 2007 edition of Education Week as Against Other Nations, U.S. Below Par in Science

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Privacy & Security Webinar
K-12 Cybersecurity in the Real World: Lessons Learned & How to Protect Your School
Gain an expert understanding of how school districts can improve their cyber resilience and get ahead of cybersecurity challenges and threats.
Content provided by Microsoft

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

International In Their Own Words What a Teachers' Union Leader Saw in Ukraine
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten was in the country just after widespread air strikes from Russia.
4 min read
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten prepares to cross the border into Ukraine on Oct. 10.
Randi Weingarten visited Ukraine on Oct. 10—the day Russian missiles slammed into Lviv, Kyiv, and other cities.
Courtesy of AFT
International Q&A 'Tell American Students to Be Grateful': What Ukrainian Refugees Told AFT's President
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten traveled to Poland to meet with Ukrainian students and teachers.
4 min read
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten passes out books to Ukrainian refugees at a makeshift school in a hostel in Warsaw, Poland, on April 4, 2022.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten passes out books to Ukrainian refugees at a makeshift school in a hostel in Warsaw, Poland, on April 4.
Courtesy of Asher Huey
International What the Research Says How Nations Can Repair Pandemic Damage to Students' Well-Being, Trust in Government
International data suggest the pandemic has marginalized young people in many countries.
3 min read
Image of high school students working together in a school setting.
E+/Getty
International What the Research Says Schooling in a Pandemic: How Other Countries Are Doing It
A new study highlights how instruction in 11 countries has changed following pandemic closures and outbreaks.
3 min read
Children attend a lesson in a school in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has lifted the restrictions on schools in Russia's capital, students of all grades will to return for face-to-face education after months studying remotely.
Children attend a lesson in a school in Moscow last January. Russian schools had relatively shorter periods of academic disruptions than other countries, a new study finds.
Pavel Golovkin/AP