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The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) coordinates the United States' participation in international studies. These studies include large-scale assessments and surveys comparing early childhood learning, student performance, teacher training and teaching, and adult skills (International Studies Brochure). PDF icon (144 KB)

NCES also contributes timely and accurate U.S. data on wide-ranging topics including enrollment, graduates, teachers’ salaries and earnings by educational attainment for use in international indicators published annually by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Over the past 30 years, these international studies and indicators of education statistics have provided the United States with valuable information on

  • How well the performance of U.S. students compares with that of students in other education systems in a variety of subjects, including mathematics, science, reading, financial literacy, problem solving, and information and communications technology (ICT)
  • How well the literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills of U.S. adults compare to the skills of adults in other countries
  • How the U.S. education system compares with other countries’ education systems on topics such as enrollment, graduates, completion rates, tuition and fees, teachers’ salaries, and earnings by educational attainment
  • How U.S. states compare with other countries and education systems
  • How contextual factors across education systems, such as differences in instructional time, culture, and teaching and learning environments, play a role in educational outcomes across countries
  • What works (and what doesn't), and how the United States can use the information from international studies and indicators of education statistics to inform policy, research, and practices

Below are two videos that summarize some of the information learned from these international studies over the past 30 years.



What are NCES’s main roles and responsibilities in large-scale international studies?
In collaboration with organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), as well as representatives of other nations, NCES provides input to incorporate U.S. research and policy priorities into existing and future international assessments. In addition, NCES represents the United States in the governing bodies of the OECD and IEA to ensure the international comparability and quality of education data, to monitor and promote international development efforts that improve best practices in surveys and assessments, and to represent U.S. interests in the future development of international studies. NCES analyzes the data from international large-scale assessments and disseminates the results in many forms, including web reports, data files, data tools, tables, charts, and blog posts. NCES also serves as a resource for the U.S. Department of Education, other federal agencies, and other U.S. stakeholders on international education data. NCES conducts all data collection activities for international education studies in the United States, coordinating participation with U.S. states, districts, schools, students, adults, teachers, and principals. NCES also is responsible for ensuring the confidentiality and security of U.S. data.
1. Design and development In collaboration with organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), as well as representatives of other nations, NCES provides input to incorporate U.S. research and policy priorities into existing and future international assessments. In addition, NCES represents the United States in the governing bodies of the OECD and IEA to ensure the international comparability and quality of education data, to monitor and promote international development efforts that improve best practices in surveys and assessments, and to represent U.S. interests in the future development of international studies.
2. Data collection and operations NCES conducts all data collection activities for international education studies in the United States, coordinating participation with U.S. states, districts, schools, students, adults, teachers, and principals. NCES also is responsible for ensuring the confidentiality and security of U.S. data.
3. Analysis, reporting, and dissemination NCES analyzes the data from international large-scale assessments and disseminates the results in many forms, including web reports, data files, data tools, tables, charts, and blog posts. NCES also serves as a resource for the U.S. Department of Education, other federal agencies, and other U.S. stakeholders on international education data.
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Over the past 30 years, the United States has expanded its participation in international studies to include comparisons of early childhood learning, K-12 student performance, teacher training and practices, and adult skills in the domains of reading, mathematics, science, civics, financial literacy, problem solving, and computer and information literacy.

Below are two tables on U.S. participation in comparative international studies: the first lists the studies in which the United States currently participates; the second lists the studies in which the United States participated in the past. Both tables are ordered by the target age groups. The tables identify the domains surveyed by each study and the years in which each was conducted.

Table 1. Current U.S. International Survey Participation

Study What's Surveyed? Who's Surveyed? When?
Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS)
  • Informational and literary reading literacy
  • Online reading literacy
4th-graders 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016, 2021
Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)
  • Mathematics
  • Science
4th-graders
8th-graders
1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019, 2023
Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) Advanced
  • Advanced mathematics
  • Physics
Advanced 12th-graders 1995, 2008,1 2015
International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS)
  • Computer and information literacy
  • Computational thinking
8th-graders 2013,1 2018, 2023
Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)
  • Reading literacy
  • Mathematics literacy
  • Science literacy
  • Problem solving
  • Financial literacy
15-year-olds 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2018, 2022
Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS)
  • Teachers' teaching practices, and learning environments
Teachers in grades 7, 8, and 9 2008,1 2013, 2018, 2024
Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)
  • Literacy skills
  • Numeracy skills
  • Problem solving in technology-rich environments
Adults ages 16-65 (16-74 in the U.S.) 2012, 2014,2 20172, 2022
1 The United States did not participate in this cycle.
2 The United States conducted an additional round of data collection between international cycles.

Table 2. Past U.S. International Survey Participation

Study What's Surveyed? Who's Surveyed? When?
Civic Education Study (CivEd)
  • Knowledge of democratic practices and institutions
  • National identity and international relations
  • Social cohesion and diversity
9th-graders 1999
International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS)
  • Prose literacy
  • Document literacy
  • Quantitative literacy
Adults ages 16-65 1994
Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) Video Study
  • 8th-grade mathematics and science teaching practices
Teachers of 8th-grade mathematics and science 1995, 1999
Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey (ALL)
  • Prose and document literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Analytical Reasoning/problem solving
Adults ages 16-65 2003
International Early Learning Study (IELS)
  • Emerging literacy skills
  • Emerging numeracy skills
  • Empathy and trust
  • Self-regulation
5-year-olds 2018
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The special analyses of U.S. data conducted by NCES in response to requests from the OECD, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and Eurostat culminate in the release of the OECD's Education at a Glance in the early fall each year. Education at a Glance provides comparative data on education in OECD and selected non-OECD partner countries on a wide array of topics drawing from many sources, both government and private. While NCES contributes U.S. data and collaborates to develop indicators for the report, the report is an OECD product with commentary and policy recommendations written from an OECD perspective. Topics covered in this annual publication include participation in early childhood programs; salaries and working hours for public school teachers; high school graduation rates; college attendance and graduation rates; education expenditures; educational attainment; and employment outcomes.

The data prepared for and presented in Education at a Glance on topics of high policy interest in the United States are also featured in NCES reports, including the Condition of Education and Digest of Education Statistics.

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