In 2009, the average U.S. combined reading literacy score for 15-year-old students was not measurably different from the average score of the 34 OECD-member countries. The U.S. average score was lower than that of 6 OECD countries and higher than that of 13 OECD countries.
The 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) reports the performance of 15-year-old students in reading literacy in 65 countries and other education systems, including the 34 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, 26 non-OECD countries, and 5 other education systems. The OECD countries are a group of the world's most advanced economies. Other education systems refer to non-national entities, such as Shanghai-China.
The U.S. students' average score on the combined reading literacy scale (500) was not measurably different from the average score of OECD countries (493) (see table A-15-1). Compared with the other 64 countries and other education systems, the U.S. average was lower than the average in 9 countries and other education systems (6 OECD countries, 1 non-OECD country, and 2 education systems) and higher than the average in 39 countries and other education systems (13 OECD countries, 24 non-OECD countries, and 2 other education systems).
PISA 2009 presents results for three reading literacy subscales that represent reading processes: access and retrieve, integrate and interpret, and reflect and evaluate. These subscales refer to skills students must apply to draw meaning from reading (e.g., reflect and evaluate requires students to relate what they read to their own knowledge and experience and judge what they read objectively). On the access and retrieve subscale and integrate and interpret subscale, U.S. students' averages (492 and 495, respectively) were not measurably different from the OECD averages (495 and 493, respectively). On the reflect and evaluate subscale, the U.S. students' average (512) was higher than the OECD average (494).
In all 65 participating countries and other education systems, female students scored higher, on average, than male students on the combined reading literacy scale (see table A-15-2). The average difference between U.S. males and females (25 scale score points) was smaller than the average difference of the 34 OECD countries (39 scale score points) and the difference in 45 countries and other education systems (24 OECD countries, 18 non-OECD countries, and 3 other education systems).
The average scores of U.S. Black and Hispanic students on the combined reading literacy scale (441 and 466, respectively) were lower than the U.S. and OECD averages. In contrast, average scores of U.S. White and Asian students (525 and 541, respectively) were higher than the U.S. and OECD averages (see table A-15-3). The average score of U.S. students who reported being of two or more races (502) was not measurably different from the U.S. and OECD averages.
The U.S. average in reading literacy in 2000 (504), the last PISA cycle in which reading literacy was assessed in depth, was not measurably different from the average in 2009 (500) (see table A-15-4). There were no measurable differences between the U.S. average and the OECD trend average in 2000 (504 and 496, respectively) or in 2009 (500 and 495, respectively).
PISA is principally an OECD study, and the results for non-OECD countries and other education systems are displayed separately and are not included in the OECD average. The OECD average is the average of the national averages of the OECD member countries, with each country weighted equally, and differs from the OECD average used for analysis of trends in student scores over time. The OECD average used in the analysis of trends in reading literacy is based on the averages of the 27 OECD countries with comparable data for 2000 and 2009. The reading literacy scale was established in PISA 2000 to have a mean of 500 and a standard deviation of 100. The combined reading literacy scale is made up of all the items in the three subscales, and each scale is computed separately through Item Response Theory (IRT) models. Therefore, the combined reading scale score is not the average of the three subscale scores. For more information on PISA, see supplemental note 5. For more information on race/ethnicity, please see supplemental note 1.
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