By Yvonne Curry
The United States made scant headway on recent global achievement exams and slipped deeper in the international rankings amid fast-growing competition abroad, according to test results released by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2015, reported by NBC News. “The brutal truth is that urgent reality, must serve as a wakeup call against educational complacency and low expectations,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in an interview with U.S. News.
American students are performing far below most other developed nations on this triennial international test. In fact, they’re actually performing worse today than before. But that’s not the big problem, Duncan said. A more pressing concern, he claims, is the fact that American students are standing still, while other nations are advancing in this knowledge-based global economy. Education is more important than ever before, both for individual success and as well as collective prosperity. With these reports, it appears that students are basically losing ground and running in place, as other high performing countries begin to lead. Duncan also said the results were at odds with our aspiration to have the best educated, most competitive work force in the world. The scores are likely to reopen a long simmering debate about the state of education in America as economically ascendant nations like China eclipse U.S. students’ performance.
Eric A. Hanushek, an expert on educational policy along with Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, told NBC news that students have to work more seriously at trying to raise the performance leading to these scores. The exam, which has been administered every three years to 15 year olds, is designed to gauge how students use the material they have learned inside and outside the classroom to solve problems. U.S. scores according to PISA have stayed relatively flat since testing began in 2000. All the while, students in countries like Ireland and Poland have demonstrated marked improvement – surpassing U.S. students, according to these results.
Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, said in a statement that the United States’ mediocre scores, which she said show “continued education stagnation,” can be partially attributed to a lack of investment in early childhood education. And that, “In order to remain competitive in a complex global economy, we must address the knowledge and skills deficits that are illustrated by our nation’s lackluster PISA performance.” Perry believes that a high quality early childhood education is key to ensuring students are prepared for the rigors of school and the realities of a 21st century workforce, and is a win-win for all.