Mass. Students Among Top-Performing In Global Exam

Massachusetts high schoolers are among the top-performing students in the world, according to the results of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, exam — a test given every three years to 15-year-olds around the world.

Reading literacy was a strong point for Massachusetts students. The results show local teens tied for fourth, behind Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore. Female students performed more than 30 points better than their male peers on the reading portion of the test.

In science, local students tied for seventh in the world. And in math they tied for 10th place, but there was a large gap between Massachusetts students and those in Shanghai, who finished first.

"Those differences suggest to me what is possible," said Mitchell Chester, the state's education commissioner. "These results are a cause for celebration and they also show us that there's a lot more work to do."

While Massachusetts students trailed Asian teens, they performed better in all three subjects than the average U.S. student.

This is the first time that Massachusetts has participated in the PISA test as an individual state. In the past, the results only assessed the U.S. as a whole.

Connecticut and Florida were the only other states that participated on an individual level; Massachusetts outperformed both.

"Our population is, in general, better educated than the average in the United States, which means that the parents of the kids are probably focusing a little more on the education of their children," said Philip Altbach, the director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College.

Altbach added that the state is also more affluent, and higher incomes tend to translate into better test scores.

While officials are touting the success of students in Massachusetts, nationally they’re not. The results across the country are more grim.

The U.S. fell in rankings, with its average score dropping in every subject.

In a statement, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the results were “a picture of educational stagnation.” He added that “this is a reality at odds with our aspiration to have the best-educated, most competitive workforce in the world.”

Overall, the test results suggest that Asian students are dominating the world academically.

This article was originally published on December 03, 2013.

This program aired on December 3, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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Asma Khalid Reporter
Asma Khalid formerly led WBUR's BostonomiX, a biz/tech team covering the innovation economy.



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