The PISA test is a lavishly funded exam of math, reading, and science for a sample of 15-year-olds in 77 countries (e.g., in the U.S., 4,450 students across 297 schools, public and private) that’s given every 3 or 4 years. It’s inherently hard to give a test in multiple languages and have it come out equally fair in all, so don’t get too worked up over who outscored whom by 10 points. (It’s scored on roughly a 200 to 800 scale like the SAT, with 500 supposed to being about the midpoint for wealthy OECD countries, and a standard deviation being around 100.)
On the other hand, northeast Asian ethnicity countries like Singapore usually score best, followed by white countries, and so forth, as you’d largely expect.
U.S. math scores went down sharply (13 points) from 2018 to 2022, presumably due to schools going virtual during COVID and other 2020 chaos. But reading and science only declined a few points, and, overall, the U.S. moved up in the rankings as most rich countries got even worse.
And of course, as I’ve been emphasizing for a decade, the U.S. actually scores pretty well on the PISA when considering our racial demographics. Our Asians score about as well as all but the crazy richest East Asian city states, our whites do pretty well compared to the remaining white countries in Europe, our Latinos beat Latin American countries, and our blacks outscore what few black countries attempt PISA.
From the National Center for Education Statistics:
On the other hand, we outspend just about every other country per pupil as well.
I usually graph these results showing how America’s different races would score as separate countries, but this year the intelligent and energetic Crémieux beat me to it:
With the latest PISA results, America has proven once again that it has one of the smartest populations and, perhaps, the best education systems.— Crémieux (@cremieuxrecueil) December 5, 2023
American Asians and Whites topped the charts; American Hispanics beat all other Hispanics; American Blacks did well.
Means first pic.twitter.com/vanvjHo97J
On the other hand, he has much sharper eyes than I have so I can never read his graphs. So maybe I’ll gin up one of my extremely on-the-nose graphs anyway.
Cambodia came in last, perhaps due to Pol Pot murdering everybody who wore glasses a couple of generations ago.
And European countries are getting more diverse, so it’s time to break out non-immigrant vs. immigrant scores in Europe. PISA publishes this data.
For instance, when I first started looking at international tests, Finland usually led Europe, in part because it was pretty much all white. But lately Finland has been coming down to earth as it gets more diverse, and now Estonia, which is like Finland in some ways, but is poorer because it was under the Soviet thumb until a third of a century ago, is number one in Europe, in part because it doesn’t yet have a lot of Third Worlders moving in.
I’m not sure I totally trust America’s strong performance in PISA. I should go look up how we do on TIMSS.