The latest PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results are in, and as usual the United States ranks embarrassingly poorly. The every-three-years PISA test, administered to 15-year-olds all around the world, measures math, science, and reading skills.
As reported in The Economist, this time the US ranked fortieth in math, twenty-fifth in science, and twenty-fourth in reading. Higher-ranking countries for math and science include Japan, Korea and China as well as most countries in Europe.
Fifteen years of PISA testing have gone by during which the US has ranked poorly again and again. The hope that STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) training could improve in the US remains unfulfilled.
Money alone is not the answer. Per-pupil spending in schools in the US is much higher than that in most of the higher-ranked countries, and yet the results are poorer.
What does work? In the top-performing countries, teachers are treated as professionals and are given time to prepare lessons and learn from their peers. Their advancement is determined by results, not teachers’ unions. In the top-performing countries, school culture and budgets recognize classroom accomplishments by students more than, say, sports accomplishments.
But of course educational achievement begins at home. It might sound old-fashioned, but in the top-performing countries, parents tend to encourage their children to study hard and to do their homework.