The Exhaustive Guide To The PISA Survey

You’ve probably heard all about the students in China and how they’re smarter than, well, all other students around the globe. That was so yesterday. Now the backlash begins. There’s plenty of outrage coming from seemingly all parts of the world this morning.

It’s all about the PISA Survey. What is the PISA Survey? PISA is the Program on International Student Achievement; it’s run by the OECD and covers 15-year-olds in dozens of countries around the world; it compares their achievement on a variety of math and reading tests; and once again this year it shows U.S. students in the middle of the pack or worse. The shock was how well students in Shanghai, the only test site in China, scored on the tests.

The OECD’s latest PISA Survey tests reading, mathematics and science performance by students in 65 economies worldwide. Aside from global rankings, the report discusses which educational systems are offering students the best training for entering the workforce of tomorrow, and why.

How To Get The Raw Data & Comparisons

You’ll want to head over to this page. You can compare, contrast, view, and manipulate all the data. It’s somewhat straightforward and pretty easy to do some simple comparisons. Here’s a glance at what the page looks like:

Key Facts From The 2010 Survey

  • U.S. 15-year-olds had an average score of 500 on the combined reading literacy scale, not measurably different from the OECD average score of 493. Among the 33 other OECD countries, 6 countries had higher average scores than the United States, 13 had lower average scores, and 14 had average scores not measurably different from the U.S. average. Among the 64 other OECD countries, non-OECD countries and other education systems, 9 had higher average scores than the United States, 39 had lower average scores, and 16 had average scores not measurably different from the U.S. average.
  • U.S. 15-year-olds had an average score of 487 on the mathematics literacy scale, which was lower than the OECD average score of 496. Among the 33 other OECD countries, 17 countries had higher average scores than the United States, 5 had lower average scores, and 11 had average scores not measurably different from the U.S. average. Among the 64 other OECD countries, non-OECD countries, and other education systems, 23 had higher average scores than the United States, 29 had lower average scores, and 12 had average scores not measurably different from the U.S. average score.
  • On the science literacy scale, the average score of U.S. students (502) was not measurably different from the OECD average (501). Among the 33 other OECD countries, 12 had higher average scores than the United States, 9 had lower average scores, and 12 had average scores that were not measurably different. Among the 64 other OECD countries, non-OECD countries, and other education systems, 18 had higher average scores, 33 had lower average scores, and 13 had average scores that were not measurably different from the U.S. average score.

4 Comments

  1. AtlanticReader

    December 8, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    You might want to point out that the "anonymous U.S. professor" quote was lifted in toto, without attribution, from the Atlantic Monthly's site. here. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/

    • Edudemic

      December 8, 2010 at 7:23 pm

      Sorry about that! Amended and removed. Will be more vigilant next time.

  2. Moises

    December 9, 2010 at 10:09 am

    you can find a map with PISA results in maths and reading student performance by country at
    reading: https://www.targetmap.com/viewer.aspx?reportId=33
    maths: https://www.targetmap.com/viewer.aspx?reportId=33
    Hope you find them useful

  3. @edteck

    December 9, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Is PISA "a Sputnik wake-up" or are international comparisons invalid. Rather than wade into that debate, I'd rather look more closely at the questions in the PISA test and what student responses tell us about American education. You can put international comparisons aside for that analysis.

    Are American students able to analyze, reason and communicate their ideas effectively? Do they have the capacity to continue learning throughout life? Have schools been forced to sacrifice creative problem solving for “adequate yearly progress” on state tests?

    I focus on a sample PISA question that offers insights into what American students can (and cannot do) in my post "Stop Worrying About Shanghai, What PISA Test Really Tells Us About American Students" http://bit.ly/eChNoY