Teens from Asian nations dominated a global exam given to 15-year-olds, while U.S. students showed little improvement and failed to reach the top 20 in math, science or reading, according to test results released Tuesday.

American students scored below the international average in math and about average in science and reading.

The top average scores in each subject came from Shanghai, China’s largest city with more than 20 million people.  Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong were among the participants with students scoring at the top on average in each subject.  Vietnam, which had its students participate for the first time, had a higher average score in math and science than the United States.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the results a “picture of educational stagnation.”

“We must invest in early education, raise academic standards, make college affordable, and do more to recruit and retain top-notch educators,” Duncan said.

About half a million students in 65 nations and educational systems took part in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA.

U.S. scores on the PISA haven’t changed much since testing started in 2000 and American students historically have not had high marks on international tests.  Factors often cited include high rates of child poverty and population diversity.

Overall, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said among the Asian nations dominating the test, “The one thing they all have in common is that they make a real commitment to education for all kids and nothing deters them from that vision, and then they do what’s necessary to make that happen. In the United States, we don’t have the commitment for all kids and it needs to change.”

The test is based on a 1,000-point scale. Among the findings:

— In math, the U.S. average score was 481. Average scores ranged from 368 in Peru to 613 in Shanghai. The international average was 494.

— In science, the U.S. average score was 497. Average scores ranged from 373 in Peru to 580 in Shanghai. The international average was 501.

— In reading, the U.S. average score was 498. Average scores ranged from 384 in Peru to 570 in Shanghai. The international average was 496.

While most US educators minimize these types of results and try to excuse them, the fact remains that most US schools have a daily length of approximately 6.7 hours of instruction, with a minimum of 173 days and an average of 180 days.  While in China, students have a daily school day of 7 ½ hours, 6 days a week, and their school year is 10 ½ months long.  Maybe it is time to lengthen the amount of time that our children spend in school.  Also, maybe it is time to concentrate on the fundamentals, instead of allowing children to take meaningless elective classes, in order to graduate.

Thousands of students in five states will be spending more time at school.  More than 9,000 students are attending select, high-poverty schools in Connecticut, Colorado, Massachusetts and New York that have developed expanded school schedules as part of the TIME Collaborative, or Time for Innovation Matters in Education.  Some of those schools are already using the extra time for additional instruction and enrichment.

The 11 districts adding schools to the program are Boulder Valley and Denver in Colorado; Bridgeport, Meriden and Windham in Connecticut; Boston and Salem in Massachusetts; Rochester and Syracuse in New York; and Knox County and Metro Nashville, in Tennessee.

In many cases, they’ll be using the extra 300 hours a year for things there isn’t enough time for during a regular school day, such as trying out personalized learning technologies and studying world cultures, healthy living, foreign languages, fitness and healthy living, and even scrapbooking.

In Meriden, the Casimir Pulaski Elementary School started to increase its school day last year, and attendance rates and performance on test scores all improved.  This year, the school day was increased by 100 minutes at Pulaski, as well as a second elementary school.  Two other Meriden elementary schools are in the planning stages to expand their days in 2014-15.

Benigni said the response from students, parents and teachers has been positive. In some cases, the students get to choose which classes they want to take.

In Boulder County, students at Pioneer Elementary are using an extra 45 minutes a day for technology instruction and independent study. The district plans to lengthen the school day at another elementary school next year.

 

Advertisements