After Test Results, Ed Secretary Calls for 'Math Revolution'

PISA results show 33% of US students lack basic math proficiency
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 5, 2023 9:35 AM CST
33% of US Students Lack Basic Math Proficiency, Test Shows
Josephine Alade teaches math to high schoolers at Roosevelt High School-Early College Studies, in Yonkers, New York, on Oct. 15, 2020.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The first assessment of global achievement in math since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic reveals further evidence of what some are calling a "crisis" in US education. The average math score for American students taking part in Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams fell to 465 out of 1,000 in 2022—an all-time low, per the Washington Post. That's 13 points lower than in 2018, the year of the last assessment, and 18 points lower than in 2003. "One in three US students scored below a basic level of math proficiency," per the New York Times, while "just 7% of US students scored at the highest levels in math, compared with 23% in Japan and South Korea, and 41% in Singapore, the top-performing country."

The tests, typically given every three years to 15-year-olds from 81 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries and partner economies, showed "an unprecedented drop in performance across the OECD," according to a release. Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Poland, "all saw a drop of 25 score points or more in [math] between 2018 and 2022." US reading and science scores saw no major alteration from 2018, with about 20% of students underperforming in those areas. Still, the US improved in reading, science, and math rankings—it sits in 26th in math, up from 29th in 2018; sixth in reading, up from eighth; and 10th in science, up from 11th, per the Post—"primarily because other countries that once outperformed the United States ... posted scores that were statistically tied."

In a statement, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona called for a "math revolution" involving a "highly qualified and supported educator workforce," as the report released Tuesday suggests high math scores were strongly associated with good access to teacher support. Yet Cardona also credited "President Biden's bold investments, backed by tireless efforts at the Department of Education to support student success and academic recovery" with keeping the US "in the game." Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, sees US reading and science scores as "some cause for hope," per the Post. But the US also falls below the OECD average in food security, and more of its students report feeling unsafe at school, per the Times. (More education stories.)

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