Thursday, April 4, 2013
American middle class high schools have not kept pace with other countries
This three-part report, Middle Class or Middle of the Pack? highlights achievement in middle class American schools based on new analyses of math and science data from the 2009 PISA results and the results of a pilot study involving 105 American high schools that took a new test known as the OECD Test for Schools (based on PISA). The test is a school-level internationally benchmarked tool that measures reading, math and science knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds. Importantly, the OECD Test for Schools also measures key competencies such as critical thinking and problem solving as students are expected to apply their mastery of rigorous reading, math, and science content.
In the first section, the inescapable conclusion from data from the 2009 PISA study is that a large percentage of American middle class high schools have not kept pace as countries like Singapore, Finland, Korea and Germany have raised standards, invested in teachers and lifted their overall performance.
- U.S. students in the middle quarters of economic and social advantage lag behind dozens of other countries in math and science.
- In comparing scores across the second-to-top quarter of socio-economic advantage, U.S. students are significantly outperformed by 24 countries or regions in math and 15 countries or regions in science.
- In comparing scores across the third quarter of socio-economic advantage, U.S. students are significantly outperformed by their peers in 31 countries or regions in math and 25 in science.
The second section offers some good news—highlighting individual U.S. schools that are global leaders. The results presented here are based on the schools’ results from their participation in the pilot of the OECD Test for Schools (based on PISA). These schools have voluntarily made their results public and they include U.S. high schools that literally outperform—on average—every country in the world.
- BASIS Tucson North, a non-selective high school serving an economically modest middle class student population in Arizona, outperformed the average of every country in the world in reading, math, and science.
- Three non-selective high schools in Fairfax, Virginia outperformed the average of virtually every country in the world. One of those is Woodson High School—a middle class school that outperformed the average of every country in the world in reading. Another U.S. high school serving a similar student population to Woodson lagged behind the average of students in 31 countries in reading.
- The study showed that low-income schools can be globally competitive too. North Star Academy—a non-selective, predominantly low-income school in Newark, New Jersey—cracked the world’s top ten by outperforming all but the average of nine countries in reading.