There is an abundance of evidence that the education system is failing far too many American children. Academic performance has, at best, remained stagnated for years. Scholastically speaking the familiar chant of, "We're Number One" – seemingly embedded in American's DNA for generations – has been replaced with "We're just average – and sliding backwards."
Results of a 2012 international academic assessment of 15 year olds released last Tuesday indicates that as compared to 65 other developed nations, the U.S. is barely average for reading skills and below average for math and science proficiency. More alarming, American kids are falling farther behind their international competitors.
As the chart above courtesy of the AP indicates, American students ranked 24th in reading, 28th in science, and 36th in math. U.S. students barely achieved the average score of all participating nations in reading, while scoring below average for math and science. Compared to the 2009 rankings, the U.S. slipped seven places downward in reading and five places in math and science. (Graphic of all results here)
The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a global study conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) among member and non-member "partner" nations to assess performance in reading, math and science. The test, first performed in 2000 and repeated on three year intervals, is conducted among 15 year old students with a goal of improving education policies and outcomes. The 2012 test included 510,000 students from 65 nations.
East Asian countries dominated the 2012 results by taking 7 of the top 10 spots in math, and 6 of 10 in reading and science. Vietnam, participating in the test for the very first time, ranked 8th (528) in Science, 17th (511) in Math, and 19th (508) in Reading, significantly out-performing the U.S.
Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education for the Obama Administration, called the disappointing results "a picture of educational stagnation." The cure, according to Duncan, was for the U.S. to "invest" more.