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December 07, 2004 Extra Credit
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December 7, 2004

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PISA Results Show Need For High School Reform
U.S. 15-year-olds outperformed by other nations in mathematics, problem-solving


The need for high school reform is evidenced by the latest results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which were released Monday. America’s 15-year-olds performed below the international average in mathematics literacy and problem-solving. The test, given in the spring of 2003, assesses the abilities of 15-year-old students from 41 countries (including 30 of the most developed) to apply learning to real-world problems.

In order to improve America’s high schools, President Bush has called for annual learning assessments for all students in grades 9-11. Under the No Child Left Behind Act such assessments, developed and driven by the 50 states, currently apply to students in grades 3-8 and once during high school. The president has also called for high schools to offer more challenging coursework, and for more students to elect to take it. As part of that effort, the Department has funded the Advanced Placement Program, which helps students, particularly low-income students, to participate and succeed in Advanced Placement courses and exams. In addition, he has proposed the Striving Readers program that will allow schools to develop specific intervention programs so that struggling students get the help they need before they reach high school.

Last year the U.S. Department of Education launched the Preparing America’s Future High School Initiative to help states develop and share ideas leading to world-class schools that challenge and engage their students.

"Many of our high schools are already world-class," U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige said. "However, too many graduate students are ill-prepared to succeed in higher education or the workforce. These students are being robbed of their life’s potential. A high school diploma should be meaningful—a roadmap to a fulfilling future."

The report on U.S. PISA results, International Outcomes of Learning in Mathematics and Science Literacy: PISA 2003 Results From the U.S. Perspective, was released on Monday by the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the Institute of Education Sciences. The international results on PISA were released Monday by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

PISA is organized under the auspices of the OECD and is directed in the United States by NCES. The OECD is an intergovernmental organization of industrialized countries for cooperation in research and policy development on social and economic topics. PISA assesses students every three years to provide participating nations with regular information on learning outcomes for reading literacy, mathematics literacy and science literacy and cross-curricular skills, like problem-solving. Problem-solving questions involved students using reasoning skills to make decisions, troubleshoot systems, and analyze and design systems based on given criteria. PISA 2003 focused on mathematics literacy and problem-solving.

For further information on PISA or to download the report International Outcomes of Learning in Mathematics and Science Literacy: PISA 2003 Results From the U.S. Perspective, please visit NCES’ PISA Web site at http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa.

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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 08/13/2013