PISA test results show U.S. math scores are low in comparison

Last Tuesday, December 3rd, standardized test results of the entire nation were released, which showed that U.S. fifteen year olds are behind specifically in math compared to the rest of the world.  The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) was given to more than 6,100 fifteen year old students from the US as well as thousands form 65 other countries.  Other countries have pulled ahead in scores in recent years, although America still lags behind.  Is there a particular cause for low score? What sets apart New Trier’s high test scores from the nation as a whole?

David Reinstein, a math teacher at New Trier commented, “Well, we need to take education seriously so it doesn’t matter what the test says. We need to think about what it will take to improve our schools.It’s actually pretty uniform as far as age is concerned and a big part of the problem is poverty in the country.” Reinstein went on to note that schools that have high poverty levels have more students failing the tests. Conversely, in schools that have low poverty levels, most students pass the tests, he said.

With troubled homes and insufficient financial stability, many children in the United States put education aside to take care of their families or because their family cannot afford to provide them the education they deserve.  With many parents working several jobs at one time to make ends meet and being unsure of how to pay for their children’s next meal, these kids have more pressing matters to worry about than math.

Lauren Zuperku, another math teacher at New Trier said, “The fact that schools, especially in the poorer areas are struggling, I’m sure they don’t get as many highly qualified teachers. If you’re not highly qualified to teach math, then you can’t go into the depth that people need to really understand it.”

When asked about the PISA results, New Trier math department chair Steven Viktora responded, “Well, it depends where you look because there is evidence that scores have gone up. There’s another test called NAEP, National Assessment of Educational Progress, and American students are actually performing better on that over time at a huge increase.”

According to the New Trier School Profile of 2013-2014, New Trier’s math scores are not a problem. The school’s average Math ACT score is 27.5, well above the Illinois and national average of 20.9.