U.S. Students Decline in Math

December 6, 2016

The latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results released today show U.S. students remain middling in reading and science, but are falling further behind in math. Administered every three years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the assessment includes students from nearly 70 countries.

U.S. student performance remains unchanged in reading and science since the 2012 PISA exam. However, math performance had declined 12 points since the last exam. While the U.S. ranking in reading and science is concerning, students still scored above the OECD average in both subjects. But, on the math exam, U.S. students are now below the OECD average.

"We're losing ground — a troubling prospect when, in today's knowledge-based economy, the best jobs can go anywhere in the world," said Education Secretary John B. King Jr. "Students in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Minnesota aren't just vying for great jobs along with their neighbors or across state lines, they must be competitive with peers in Finland, Germany, and Japan."

The continued slide in math is a great concern for the business community. As the Show Me Institute’s Michael McShane wrote late last year, “according to Change the Equation, from 2014 to 2024, jobs in computing are slated to increase 19%, in advanced manufacturing 16%, and in engineering 12%. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2012-2022, there is going to be a 37% increase in information security analysts, a 27% increase in operations research analysts, a 27% increase in statisticians, and a 27% increase in biomedical engineers.”

In short, jobs in STEM will continue to grow. The challenge will be to find enough qualified talent to fill these roles. Unless we get serious about the STEM subjects in this country, it looks like these opportunities will go elsewhere.

To learn more, visit the OECD website

Pisa chart