Tuesday is PISA Day

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The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the PISA 2012 data collection results today which summarize the results of tests given to 510,000 15-year-olds in 65 educational systems in reading, mathematics, and science.

A host of organizations are sponsoring PISA Day all day in Washington, D.C. - a series of panels and presentations discussing the results and policy implications. You can watch the action live on their website.

It will take some time for academics to dig into the raw data, but the initial findings are not exactly cause for celebration. Here are a selection of OECD's key findings for the United States:

  • Among the 34 OECD countries, the United States performed below average in mathematics in 2012 and is ranked 26th. Performance in reading and science are both close to the OECD average. The United States ranks 17th in reading and 21st in science. There has been no significant change in these performances over time. (All ranks in this bullet are the best estimates and could go up or down by 3 because of sampling and measurement errors.)

  • Just over one in four U.S. students do not reach the PISA baseline Level 2 of mathematics proficiency, a higher-than-OECD average proportion and one that hasn't changed since 2003. At the opposite end of the proficiency scale, the U.S. has a below-average share of top performers.

  • Students in the United States have particular weaknesses in performing mathematics tasks with higher cognitive demands, such as taking real-world situations, translating them into mathematical terms, and interpreting mathematical aspects in real-world problems. An alignment study between the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and PISA suggests that a successful implementation of the Common Core Standards would yield significant performance gains also in PISA.

  • Socio-economic background has a significant impact on student performance in the United States, with some 15% of the variation in student performance explained by this, similar to the OECD average. Although this impact has weakened over time, disadvantaged students show less engagement, drive, motivation and self-beliefs.

  • Students in the U.S. are largely satisfied with their schools and view teacher-student relations positively. But they do not report strong motivation towards learning mathematics: only 50% of students agreed that they are interested in learning mathematics, slightly below the OECD average of 53%.