China tops, U.S. lags in education test results

Amanda Carey Contributor
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The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released results Tuesday of a study that ranks international students in reading, science and math. Their release came as a blow to the United States.

The survey, which tested 15-year-old students in participating countries, revealed the U.S. ranked average in reading and science, and below average in math. China, participating for the first time ever, blew the competition out of the water, coming in first in all three categories.

The U.S results also come on the heels of a decade-long push to improve public education, most notably through President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. Unfortunately for those who wholeheartedly supported NCLB, the rest of the world is not waiting for U.S. 8th graders, who perform far behind their international peers, to catch up in math.

Although the report noted that because the Chinese students surveyed were located only in Shanghai, it did not necessarily represent the entire country, it still served as  wake-up call to U.S. officials.

“For me, it’s a massive wake-up call,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Washington Post Monday. “Have we ever been satisfied as Americans being average in anything? Is that our aspiration? Our goal should be absolutely to lead the world in education.”

Duncan went on to say, “The United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects. We can quibble, or we can face the brutal truth that we’re being out-educated.”

Other findings of the study show girls are still reading at a higher level than boys, and U.S. math scores did go up since 2006, but only back to 2003 levels (2006 was a particularly bad year). Scores are based on a 1,000-point scale, with 500 being average.

In math, the U.S. scored a 487 to China’s 600. In reading, the U.S came in 17th with a 500, compared to China’s 556. In that category, U.S. students scored in the same range as students from the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.

And in science, China got a 575, while the U.S.  placed 23rd with a 502.