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A Bad Report Card for Public Schools

Written by Education Lead


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U.S. public schools have earned a bad report card…again. Multiple studies comparing test results of American students to those of many other nations show that the United States repeatedly falls short of making the top grades. It’s a problem that has been going on for years, inherent in the educational system itself, and some say it’s purposeful.

Drew Desilver at Per Research Center

As reported by Drew Desilver, the United States still lags behind many other nations in academics. Of 71 countries tested in 2015 via the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the U.S. placed 24th in science, 38th in mathematics, and 24th in reading. For a country like ours, rich with opportunity, these results are disappointing.


Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)

The PISA exam is given every three years with data available online for 2015 and years prior. In 2015 about 29 million 15-year-old students from schools around the world were tested, representing 72 countries. Test material covered science, mathematics, reading, financial literacy, and collaborative problem solving.

The 2015 PISA report placed U.S. students as average in reading, and below average in mathematics, with 20% not reaching the science proficiency baseline. At the upper end of the scale, 9% of the U.S. students reached the higher levels of scoring compared to 15% of students in Japan, Singapore, and Chinese Taipei.

The U.S. students performed significantly below Canada, Estonia, Germany, Finland, and Hong Kong (China), and about the same as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Poland, and Sweden.

Interestingly, the report also points out that the U.S. spends 20% more on education per student (ages 6-15) than Canada and Germany and twice as much as that spent in Estonia, countries that exceed the U.S. in education.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

The NAEP, which tests grades 4 and 8, tells us that comparing 2015 to 2017 there was no change in the average reading or mathematics scores except for a minimal 1-point increase in average reading score for grade 8.

Average scores in the U.S. states/jurisdictions, which includes the fifty states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense schools, and Puerto Rico (math only), were unchanged since 2015.

Grade 4 reading scores did not increase in any U.S. state/jurisdiction, and decreased in 9 U.S. states/jurisdictions.

Performing at or above Proficient, according to NAEP assessments, indicates competency over the subject matter. Nationally, percentages of students who tested at or above Proficiency were grade 4, 40% in mathematics and 35% in reading, and grade 8, 33% in mathematics and 35% in reading.


The numbers haven’t changed much over the years. The public school system is failing and its students are not getting the best education possible. Unfortunately, todays’ parents and teachers are also a product of that same failing system, and many do not see the need to change it or to do anything differently. Wise and concerned parents will do well to become informed, to homeschool, or to choose a good private school for their children. Find a way to avoid this failing system altogether.