The Common Core standards, which 45 states and Washington, D.C., have adopted, could be the cure to United States’ mediocre math scores on PISA.

At least that’s a conclusion in an assessment of the latest American scores on the international test of 15-year-olds in 65 nations, whose results were released this week. The 10-page analysis was prepared by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development; its education administrator, Andreas Schleicher is a big fan of the Common Core.

“The analysis suggests that a successful implementation of the Common Core standards would yield significant performance gains also in PISA,” concluded the report.

That’s because the standards address the key weaknesses that the 2012 assessment of just over 6,000 students in 161 randomly selected schools across America revealed.

The biggest weakness reflects the failure, under most state standards, to require higher-order activities, particularly mathematical modeling, which the report defines as “understanding real world situations, translating them into mathematical models, and interpreting mathematical results.” U.S. students also have trouble with geometric reasoning.

What they’re especially good at, the report said with a back-handed compliment, is “cognitively less-demanding mathematical skills and abilities,” such as calculating simple values from diagrams or using well-structured formulae.

In the 2012 math portion of PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment, U.S. students scored below average compared with the 34 OECD nations. Though it ranked 26th, it could be between 23rd and 29th because of measurement errors. The U.S. was comparable to Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, Russia, the Slovak Republic, Spain and Sweden.

Over a quarter of U.S. students fell below the level of skill that would “enable them to participate effectively and productively in life,” the report said. At the other end, only 9 percent were more advanced – Level 5 and 6 proficiency under the test. That compared with 17 percent in Germany, 24 percent in Japan and more than 30 percent in several East Asian nations.

One U.S. number was high: education spending. Only four nations ­ – Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland – spend more per student, the report said.

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  1. navigio 9 years ago9 years ago

    I think we underestimate the importance of academic english proficiency (eg higher order thinking) in the areas of math and science. And I expect that to be even more the case under common core given how it is to be presented. Unfortunately, that proficiency (or lack thereof) correlates strongly with parent education level at the moment, which any implementation of common core wont address. Especially one that believes only more math and science can solve math and science deficiencies..


    • el 9 years ago9 years ago

      I agree, and I think so not just for real world success but quite specifically for the exams, which tend to be full of tricksy reading to understand the question being asked. It does a good job of separating kids out for the bell curve, but I’m not convinced that it benefits us if our intent is accurate measurement of math and science proficiency independent of English fluency and close reading skills.

      • Manuel 9 years ago9 years ago

        Ah, but if the new tests are going to be “graded on the curve,” we have just jumped from the frying pan into the fire…