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‘Education for Innovation’ Town Hall: How Do U.S. Students Stack Up?

The NewsHour took part in a special town hall meeting Tuesday on education and innovation. Gwen Ifill and Hari Sreenivasan moderated the event, which included an interview with Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Here’s an excerpt of the event:

“Relative to other countries, the United States is decidedly weaker in mathematics than in reading or even science, although there is evidence that the U.S. is making progress relative to similarly performing countries.”

NCES Deputy Commissioner Stuart Kerachsky

### Reading Literacy

  • Among the 33 other OECD countries, 6 had higher averages scores than the United States, 13 had lower average sores, and 14 had average scores not measurably different than the U.S. average; among all 64 other countries and education systems, 9 had higher average scores than the United States, 39 were lower, and 16 were not measurably different.
  • Eighteen percent of U.S. students did not reach PISA’s proficiency level 2, considered to be the point at which students can complete low-level reading tasks. Thirty percent scored at or above level 4, at which students are “capable of difficult reading tasks.”
  • Girls outperformed boys in reading literacy in all 65 participating countries and education systems. In the United States, girls scored 25 points higher than boys, one of the lowest gender differences across all PISA participants.

Mathematics Literacy

  • The U.S. average score, at 487, 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, and 11 had average scores not measurably different from the U.S. average; among all 64 other countries and 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.
  • The U.S. average score in mathematics literacy in 2009 was higher than the U.S. average in 2006 but not measurably different from the U.S. average in 2003, the initial year for the same mathematics assessment.
  • Twenty-three percent of U.S. students scored below level 2 in mathematics literacy, and 27 percent scored at or above level 4.
  • In the United States, boys scored 20 points higher than girls in math literacy–497 compared to 477 points. The OECD average also was higher for male students (501) than female students (490). Boys averaged higher scores in 35 countries, while girls averaged higher scores in 5 countries.

Science Literacy

  • U.S. 15-year-old students had an average score of 502 on the science literacy scale, which was not measurably different from the OECD average score of 501.
  • By comparison, in 2006, the U.S. average score in science literacy was below the OECD average score.
  • 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 not measurably different from the U.S. average; among all 64 other countries and 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.
  • The U.S. average score in science literacy in 2009 was higher than the U.S. average in 2006, the initial year for the same science assessment.
  • Eighteen percent of U.S. students scored below level 2 in science literacy, and 29 percent scored at or above level 4.
  • U.S. male students scored higher on average (509) than female students (495), but this gender gap did not exist when looking at the OECD average in science, where both girls and boys scored 501. Girls averaged higher scores in 21 countries, while boys averaged higher scores in 11 countries.

Full details are here. The town hall included:

  • An announcement from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Angel Gurría, Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), on the standing of U.S. students in reading, math and science literacy compared to other countries around the world.
  • A two-way conversation with Secretary Duncan and students, teachers and administrators from Olin College of Engineering (Needham, Mass.) and the School of Science and Engineering Magnet (Dallas, Tex.).
  • Robert D. Atkinson, President of The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation discuss the results from a new report on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education released that morning.
  • An interview with Thomas L. Friedman on U.S. competitiveness, innovation and economic growth.

You can submit questions here and join the conversation on Twitter by following @InnovationEcon and using the hashtag #Ed4Innovation.

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