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US students flunk international exam

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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American teenagers slipped a few spots in international rankings released Tuesday.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Eurocentric bureaucracy that frequently chides The United States for failing to copy the European welfare-state model more closely, said U.S. results dropped on a key test given to 15-year-olds.

The Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, is a test given every three years as part of a collaborative effort undertaken by the OECD. The test is given to 510,000 students across the world and measures performance in three subjects — math, reading, and science. In the U.S., 6,000 students at 161 randomly-selected schools were given the test.

Among the 34 countries in the OECD, U.S. students’ performance on the 2012 test puts them in 26th place in mathematics, 17th in reading, and 21st in science.

That’s a modest decline from 2009 when U.S. students ranked 25th in mathematics, 14th in reading, and 17th in science.

Those rankings reflect a modest decrease in U.S. student performance in all three subjects relative to international students’ stagnant results.

In math, U.S. students scored 481 on a 0-1,000 scale. All OECD countries averaged 494. U.S. students returned a score of 498 in reading and 497 in science versus an OECD average of 496 in reading and 501 in science.

Students in Asian countries and economic zones led the pack. Shanghai-China, Hong Kong-China, and Singapore, which are designated as economic zones rather than OECD countries, scored among the highest in every subject. Japan, Korea, Switzerland, and Finland fared best among the OECD cohort.

Far behind those countries, the U.S. was close to Sweden and the Slovak Republic in math, to the United Kingdom and Denmark in reading, and to Denmark and Spain in science.

In their results analysis, the OECD noted that while the U.S. spends more per student than most countries, “this does not translate into better performance”.

The OECD, which was created to administer the Marshall Plan in the 1940s but continues to perpetuate its half-billion-dollar-a-year existence more than 60 years after that mission ended, unfavorably compared the performance of the U.S., which spends over $115,000 per student, to that of the Slovak Republic, which spends less than half that amount — $53,000 per student.

The OECD report also found that socioeconomic factors explained 15 percent of the variation in U.S. student performance, in line with the OECD average. Also, according to the report, 50% of U.S. students said they are interested in learning mathematics, compared to 53 percent of all OECD countries.

U.S. students were weakest in math, according to an analysis conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. In math, 23 percent of students across all OECD countries scored lower than a 2 — at the low end of the proficiency scale. In the U.S., 26 percent of students fell below that mark. In OECD countries 13 percent of students scored higher than 5, compared to only 9 percent of U.S. students.

Comparisons of high and low scores in reading and science were similar for the U.S. and all OECD countries.

The OECD, which is headquartered in Paris and commands a staff of 2,500 bureaucrats, also provided a plug for Common Core, a curriculum touted by education reformers which sets common math and English standards for students. “The analysis suggests that a successful implementation of the Common Core Standards would yield significant performance gains also in PISA,” read the OECD analysis which identified mathematical modeling as a weakness for U.S. students.

Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at The American Enterprise Institute, isn’t as confident in Common Core. He says that it is too early to tell whether the curriculum will improve American students’ international standing.

“Given the raft of implementation and practical challenges that Common Core will pose, it’s also entirely possible that it’ll leave schools worse off,” Hess told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

In a statement released Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the U.S.’s performance “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,” said Duncan who has championed Common Core and other education reform initiatives.

In 2010, Arne Duncan called the previous year’s PISA results “a wake-up call.” U.S. Pisa results have continued to slide on his watch.

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.