For those who thought AIR’s Gary Phillips presented a bleak picture recently of American international competitiveness, be warned that it gets worse. This PEPG/Education Next study investigates how the U.S. fares in getting its students to advanced
levels on the NAEP and PISA math exams. Of the fifty-six countries that
participate in PISA, thirty best the U.S. Our highest performing state,
Massachusetts, trails fourteen of them. (Fordham’s home state of Ohio
boasts the same percentage of advanced math students as Lithuania.) No,
these findings can’t be pinned to the fact that our country is large and
heterogeneous: White students and those with college-educated parents
fared little better. California’s white pupils, for example, matched
evenly with the pupils of Poland. But don’t blame NCLB—as many do when
fretting about inattention to academically-advanced students.
The percent of students scoring at the advanced level on NAEP rose
significantly after 2002, when the law took effect. One silver thread
can be extracted from this depressing data quilt, though. Thanks to our
size, out of these fifty-six countries, the U.S. still produces the largest volume of high-achieving math students.

Eric A. Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann, “U.S. Math Performance in Global Perspective: How Well Does Each State Do at Producing High-Achieving Students?,” (Cambridge, MA: Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and Education Next, November 2010).

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