Global assessmen⁠t⁠ sheds l⁠i⁠gh⁠t⁠ on U.S. s⁠t⁠uden⁠t⁠ performance  

December 12, 2023

Bryce Fiedler

CALN Founding Member & CALN Board of Directors Secretary

According to a global study of 15-year-old students’ academic ability, American teenagers exhibit lower math skills compared to pre-pandemic levels. Other developed nations show a similar trend. However, in reading and science, U.S. performance has remained largely stable, even as international scores decline.

Students from 81 nations or regions participated in the 2022 study, called the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), including 37 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Reason notes in an article that the OECD is a group of “industrialized countries primarily comprising nations in Europe and Asia.” The last PISA test was in 2018.  

In 2022, the average PISA math score of U.S. students was 465, a 13-point decline from the average score in the 2018. That’s more evidence of potential learning loss from pandemic-related school closures. According to Reason, however, OECD countries generally fared worse over this period, with math scores on average dropping 17 points.  

Conversely, the U.S. shows resilience in reading and science. Between 2018 and 2022, the U.S. reading score slipped by a single point, from 505 to 504. By comparison, OECD’s average 2022 reading score is 476, falling nine points from the previous assessment. In science, U.S. students recently achieved an average score of 499, notably higher than the OECD average of 485. The U.S. science score has fallen a modest three points since 2018.  

Reason explains that the PISA reading results stand out from other data:

The United States’ performance on the PISA reading test is surprising, given documented declines in U.S. student reading performance following the pandemic. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, also called the “Nation’s Report Card,” recently found historic declines in reading scores among 13-year-olds between 2020 and 2023. 

The scores of all participating groups can be viewed here.