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International Comparisons in Fourth-Grade Reading Literacy Banner

Reading Literacy

U.S. Student Performance on PIRLS 2001

PIRLS 2001 scores are reported on a scale of 0 to 1000, with an international average of 500 and a standard deviation of 1001. For the 35 countries that participated in PIRLS 2001, figure 3 presents the average scores for the three scales: the combined reading literacy scale and its two components, the literary and informational subscales2 .

U.S. Student Performance on the Combined Reading Literacy Scale

  • U.S. fourth-grade students perform significantly better than the international average of 500 on the combined reading literacy scale (figure 3)3 .
  • U.S. fourth-graders outperform their counterparts in 23 of the 34 other countries participating in PIRLS 2001, although they score lower than students in England, the Netherlands, and Sweden. No detectable differences in scores are found between U.S. students and their counterparts in eight of the remaining PIRLS 2001 countries.

U.S. Student Performance on Subscales

  • U.S. fourth-grade students perform better than the international averages on both of the reading subscales (figure 3).
  • Sweden outscores the United States on the literary subscale, and five countries-Bulgaria, England, Latvia, the Netherlands, and Sweden-outperform the United States on the informational subscale.
  • U.S. fourth-graders outscore students in 26 countries on the literary subscale and outperform their counterparts in 17 countries on the informational subscale.