The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a system of international assessments that measures 15-year-olds' capabilities in reading, mathematics, and science literacy to help countries monitor how well their education systems prepare students for modern life. In addition, the PISA results provide comparative international analyses and provide a larger context to interpret national results. PISA is administered every 3 years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization of industrialized countries.
This indicator focuses on the results of the 2003 mathematics literacy assessment. Mathematical literacy is assessed by testing the capacity of students to analyze, reason, and communicate effectively as they pose, solve, and interpret mathematical problems in a variety of situations involving quantitative, spatial, probabilistic or other mathematical concepts (OECD 2004). The assessment is on a scale of 0 to 1000 and designed to have an average of 500, with two-thirds of students achieving between 400 and 600 points.
In 2003, the U.S. average (483) on the mathematics literacy assessment was lower than the OECD average (500). U.S. 15-year-olds scored lower than 20 of the other 28 participating countries and higher than 5 countries (see table 11 for country names). The U.S. score was not measurably different from the scores of the three remaining OECD countries.
A breakdown of the U.S. 15-year-olds shows measurable differences among racial/ethnic groups. Within the United States, the average scores for White (512) and Asian students (506) were higher than the average scores for Hispanic students (443) and Black students (417). Hispanic students, in turn, scored higher than Black students. Comparing internationally, the score for White students in the United States was 12 points higher than the OECD average, while the average score for Blacks was 83 points lower, and the score for Hispanics was 57 points lower than the OECD average. As a result of relatively large standard errors, no measurable differences were detected between the OECD average and the scores for Asian students.
The OECD also collected information on nativity of the students participating in PISA. Native refers to a student born in the country with at least one parent born in the country; first-generation refers to a student born in the country with both parents born outside the country; and nonnative refers to a student born outside the country with both parents born outside the country. Of the U.S. test-takers, 86 percent were native, 8 percent were first-generation, and 6 percent were nonnative. Among these U.S. test-takers, the average score for native-born students (490) was higher than the average scores for both the first-generation (468) and nonnative students (453) (table A-11). Although there appears to be a gap between the scores of first-generation and nonnative students, no measurable difference was detected which may be due in part to relatively large standard errors.
The OECD average score for native students (504) was higher than the overall average for first-generation students (480), who in turn scored higher than nonnative students (466). The average score for native students in the United States was lower than the OECD average for native students. No differences were detected between the U.S. and OECD average scores of first-generation and nonnative students. Of the 20 countries whose average scores were higher than the U.S. average score, 7 had higher percentages of nonnative students and 2 were not measurably different from the U.S. in the percentage of nonnative students.