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Chapter 2. School-Related Characteristics

Indicator 13. International Reading, Mathematics, and Science Achievement

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a system of international assessments that focus on 15-year-olds' capabilities in reading literacy, mathematics literacy, and science literacy. PISA also includes measures of general or cross-curricular competencies, such as learning strategies.  PISA emphasizes functional skills that students have acquired as they near the end of mandatory schooling. Sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental body of industrialized countries, PISA began in 2000 and is administered every 3 years.

The average reading score of U.S. 15-year-olds (500) was not measurably different from the OECD average (493) in 2009.  Students in the United States had reading scores that were lower than those in 6 OECD countries, not measurably different than those in 14 OECD countries, and higher than those in 13 OECD countries.  In the United States, Asian (541) and White (525) students scored higher than students of two or more races (502), Hispanic (466) and Black (441) students.  

In 2009, the average mathematics score of U.S. 15-year-olds was 487, which was lower than the OECD average of 496.  Seventeen of the other 33 OECD countries scored higher than the United States in mathematics, 5 countries scored lower, and 11 had scores that were not measurably different.  Within the United States, the average mathematics scores of Asian (524) and White (515) students were higher than the average scores of students of two or more races (487), Hispanic (453) and Black (423) students.

In contrast to mathematics, the average science score in 2009 of U.S. 15-year-olds (502) was not measurably different from the OECD average (501).  In science, 12 of the other 33 OECD countries scored higher than the United States, 9 scored lower, and 12 had scores that were not measurably different. In the United States, Asian (536) and White (532) students scored higher than students of two or more races (503), Hispanics (464), and Blacks (435).

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