USA not A-students: International scores show students slipping - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

USA not A-students: International scores show students slipping


The US education system is under the microscope following international test results released this week that show American stagnation compared to its global neighbors.

It's a test called the Program for International Assessment, and it measures students' proficiency in reading, math and science.

More than half a million 15-year-old students across 65 nations took the PISA test in 2012, whose results became public this week. The test began in 2000 and is administered every three years.

The 2012 results show American students scored below the international average in math and about average in science and reading.

While these test results don't allow for a state-by-state breakdown, Iowa education leaders are weighing in on America's mediocre placement.

Iowa Department of Education director Brad Buck said he's looking forward to the future of Iowa's education system in light of some recent changes. He cited the new Teacher Leadership and Compensation, along with an increased emphasis on reading proficiency in children pre-K through third grade.

"It's an exciting time to be in Iowa because I think we have lots of really focused efforts on improving the performance of our students," he told KWWL in a phone interview Tuesday.

Tuesday afternoon, a group of sophomores at Western Dubuque High School sat in their daily advisor-advisee session with English teacher Breanna Lukes.

The first half of that daily session is spent reading, but 16-year-old Katherine O'Connell said that's not what most students do in their free time.

"I am in dance, and that takes up a lot of my time, and a lot of other people have after-school activities and sports," she said. "I think that -- a lot of times -- that sports and other things come before education and reading."

While the Western Dubuque School District did not participate in the PISA test, superintendent Jeff Corkery said those international results still reflect something going on in America's culture.

"What's the A-1 revered thing in America? Athletics," Corkery said. "Look who the highest-paid people are at the colleges there, and that certainly is a major focus here in America, and the other things: entertainment, glamour, -- and that's not as much in the other countries there."

American 15-year-olds have not measurably increased their average PISA test scores in math, reading or science since testing began in 2000.

Meanwhile, students in Asian countries such as China, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong topped the international charts.

"In our classes for cultural studies and stuff, we learn about how other countries do go to school a lot more than we do and they have extra study time," O'Connell said. "We have a lot of opportunities for study time here, it's just we don't take advantage of it."

"I think in their countries," Corkery said, "teaching is regarded, too, as one of the higher professions, honorable professions, you can be."

He said an American culture shift may be in order, among other measures including better reading proficiency, teacher support and parental involvement.

While America isn't the only nation taking the PISA test that's stagnant, no countries are significantly slipping, and some -- including Vietnam -- are surpassing America's test scores.

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