U.S. students lag behind in math, science and reading
November 1st, 2011
02:07 PM ET

U.S. students lag behind in math, science and reading

By John Cookson, CNN

In the most recent sixty-five-nation Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the United States came in 15th in reading, 23rd in math and 31st in science. Here are the nations who beat the U.S. in the 2009 PISA test.

Not only are Americans absent from the top-ten nations based on average score, but the U.S. also has one of the smallest portions of students that achieve a top score. Nine percent of U.S. 15-year-olds who took the PISA test in 2006 scored a 5 or 6 (out of 6) in math. Seven-and-a-half percent got a similar top score in science. On the same test in Korea, 27% got a top score in math. In Finland, 21% got a top score in science.

This Sunday at 8pm ET, Fareed Zakaria will explore what the U.S. education system needs to do to compete in today's world in a special edition of CNN GPS called "Restoring the America Dream: Fixing Education."

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soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. GOPisGreedOverPeople

    The GOP doesn't want to fund schools.

    November 1, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Reply
    • 100% ETHIO STRONGER!

      So..., stop electing them?

      November 2, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Reply
  2. Michael Amoroso

    These studies are so unscientific that I hold back laughter while I read them. Finland for example is a tiny country and surprise surprise the population in 2011 was 93.4% Finnish. HELLO SILLY WRITER OF THIS STORY??? The United States educates a wide demographic of students including millions of special needs children that are included in our data. When you look at our top students as a group, they outperform all nations, but this does not get mentioned because it does not make good NEWS.....

    November 1, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Reply
    • puto

      yes, you are so right. but at the end we are still #1 upside-down.

      November 1, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Reply
      • Jay

        The study says more about the result of our achievement gap than anything. The previous commenter is right, we are top in reading and science after accounting for Blacks' and Hispanics' performance. This explains how our average scores are low, but we still produce highly skilled innovators who contribute to our intellectual achievements. The real issue now is, what can we do to eliminate the disparity in education? Schools like KIPP and Rocketship Education are good models to look at (longer school time and more rigor).

        November 2, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Pete50

      You keep on believing the stats are wrong. Don't you think Canada has a wide demographic as well and they are ahead of the US. Also, some countries have standard language that immigrants must learn in school and those schools don't give special treatment to them.

      November 6, 2011 at 1:57 am | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    The pressure imposed on the 15 year-olds to perform well at school is enormous in China, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, which are the only 4 from Asia in the program. Finnland leads in the West, but in Sweden, we have very good education as well. In fact the R&D in percentage to GDP is one of the higest in Europe.

    November 1, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Reply
    • 100% ETHIO STRONGER!

      I agree.

      November 2, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Reply
    • 100% ETHIO STRONGER!

      I agree. But, the education system in North America also weaker than some other Countries. For example, I found the grade Eight Algebra and Geometry in Ethiopia and India is equivalent to grade 12 in U.S.A and Canada.

      November 2, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Reply
      • 100% ETHIO STRONGER!

        Pls., correction for weaker will be read as wicker. T.Y.

        November 2, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  4. Onesmallvoice

    Judging by how much of our taxpayer dollars get squandered on the current military and foreign aid, it shouldn't surprise us that education will suffer along with other essential programs. In fact, every time it comes to budget cuts, education almost always goes first!!! At the rate we're going, this country will one day soon finish dead last when it comes to educating our young!

    November 1, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Reply
  5. PeterM

    A trend would be useful and a correlation with 20-year economic performance

    November 1, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Reply
  6. Peter Bailey

    Canada is just a little way north. It seems to do quite well. Ontario ranks 46th of the 50 states in terms of cost per student across primary and secondary schooling. Ontario and Alberta rank about the same on Pisa and occupy the two higest rankings in Canada. Their ethnic and language diversity are greater than the US. What is Canada doing? Their health system isn't too bad either. Maybe their related, but maybe it's the weather.

    November 1, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Reply
  7. Gray Mull

    Mr. Zakaria,
    I am writing to clarify something you stated on a CNN story about education around the globe. In your exchange you commented that teachers in Finland are paid equivalent to doctors and lawyers. As the brother-in-law of a Finnish teacher, your assertion is not accurate. They are respected as much as doctors and lawyers, but there pay is on par with US teachers...Finnish teachers, like many states in the US, require a Masters degree to teach. Selection, as you state, comes from the top tier of those that take the teacher's exams, some US states–NY being one, have the same standards. An article by scholastic does a good gloss on this story, and point 3 reasons for Finland's excellence...
    1. Lack of Poverty
    2. Multi-lingual populace
    3. Respect for Teachers
    In fact, A member of the National Education Association inquired about teacher salaries (no doubt expecting that Finnish counterparts would be better paid). But it was not the case. Salaries are roughly comparable, and in total Finland spends about $1,200 less per student than the United States’ $8,700 per-pupil average...it's not spending, it's not salaries...it's more than spending.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Reply
    • Gray Mull

      their* sorry, MSWord auto-corrected my correct usage to the incorrect....

      November 2, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Reply

    Do you want the U.S to be #1 in terms of educations similar to U.S stockpiling Weapons?
    Well, U.S must eliminate all the Racial discrimination, Prejudice, Manipulation and other pessimistic things that holding back the parents and Kids succeeding from Schools. Financial and moral support also a must.

    I have Family members who are being victimized in U.S.A and Canada Schools and Work places.

    November 2, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  9. disgustedNY

    I'll pass on the nation full of zombies thanks.

    November 3, 2011 at 2:03 am | Reply
  10. Loopyhunny

    Its the fat white kids that are uneducated ..look at the whale beside the other kids

    November 3, 2011 at 8:04 am | Reply
  11. glyder

    maybe if the schools taught only the basics.get your worthless as#e# out of the social engineering arena.

    November 3, 2011 at 9:16 am | Reply
  12. douglas james

    I spent 34 years teaching with a PhD in Philosophy and I find that the process of learning has been adopted to meet the needs of the students on the lower end of the socio-economic structure. Many call this the "dumbing down of America." Many social ideologies are being taught, and we are loosing ground for the foundation for the student is not well established from the beginning of their educational development.

    November 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Reply
  13. rita simms

    Please note that the students in these video clips are not texing, talking to each other walking or running around the classroom, fighting while instruction is going on. I did not see or hear a student cursing at a teacher. Education will not improve in America until 1) the discipline improves 2) the students arrive in school with a value for education. This value begins with students coming to school with basic supplies instead of electronic gadgets and most of all a desire to learn.

    November 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Reply
  14. Ann Strilbyckij

    Who was the teacher (who was teaching his nephew) then created a fun way of teaching using a laptop...name and where can I find more details. I think my nephew, who is having problems learning math would benefit from this
    learning method. Making learning fun on PC/laptop and moving ahead at his own rate...

    Thank you

    November 8, 2011 at 8:52 am | Reply
    • Pam Wright

      The teacher is Salmon Khan, who developed a fascinating website called the Khan Academy. http://www.khanacademy.org/about.

      Mr. Khan's goal is "to improve education by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere." The website offers more than 2,600 free online micro lectures delivered as video tutorials on YouTube on diverse subjects – math, history, finance, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, economics and computer science.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:56 am | Reply
  15. old teacher

    I've taught a long time and have seen expectations fall year after year. It's a combination of a culture that likes to take the easy way out, poverty, poor parenting and the ridiculous philosophy that everyone is above average. If a teacher requires hard work and a student's participation in their own education the parents come swooping in complaining that the work is too hard, the teacher is mean or that their child and and the teacher have a "personality" conflict. I recently came upon a regents review packet I used teaching math in the 80's. Not one of my student's today could pass the test, 89% of my students passed the test back then. Lazy. We are a lazy culture and until culture changes I fear it will only get worse.

    February 10, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Reply
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    May 23, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Reply

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