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PIRLS 2011 Results

The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2011 is the third comparison of reading achievement carried out since 2001 by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), an international organization of national research institutions and governmental research agencies. In 2011, 57 education systems (including countries and other education systems) participated in PIRLS, with 53 participating at the 4th-grade level. (Four countries participated at a higher grade level.) The following list presents several sources of information, from NCES and the IEA, about PIRLS. Below the list are selected findings for the 2011 PIRLS from the U.S. perspective.

After the initial release of the NCES PIRLS 2011 national report and supplemental tables, several minor changes were made to the report and appendix E. View the errata notice for details.

Reading Achievement of 4th-Graders in 2011

Comparisons of the reading achievement of 4th-grade students in 2011 are made among the 53 education systems that participated at grade 4.

Performance by Average Scores

  • The overall reading average scale score for U.S. students (556) was higher than the international PIRLS scale average, which is set to 500 (table 3).
  • In 2011, the United States was among the top 13 education systems (5 education systems had higher averages and 7 were not measurably different). The United States average was higher than in 40 education systems.
  • The 5 education systems with average scores above the U.S. average were Hong Kong-CHN, Florida-USA, the Russian Federation, Finland, and Singapore

Change in Performance Over Time

  • Compared with 2001, the U.S. average score was 14 points higher in 2011 (542 in 2001 vs. 556 in 2011) (figure 1).
  • Compared with 2006, the U.S. average score was 16 points higher in 2011 (540 in 2006 vs. 556 in 2011).

Performance on International Benchmarks

  • Considering the percentage of 4th-graders performing at or above the Advanced international reading benchmark, two education systems had percentages that were higher than the United States, 7 education systems had percentages that were not measurably different from the United States, and 43 education systems had percentages that were lower than the United States (figure 2).

Differences in Performance by Selected Student and School Characteristics

  • The average score for girls was higher than the average score for boys in the United States (562 vs. 551) and in the one education system separately assessed in the United States, Florida (576 vs. 561) (figure 3).
  • Compared to the U.S. national average reading score, White, Asian, and multiracial students scored higher on average, while Black and Hispanic 4th-graders scored lower on average (figure 4).
  • In the United States, schools were classified into five categories on the basis of the percentage of students in the school eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The percentage of students eligible and the average reading score in each category are as follows: less than 10 percent (605), 10 to 24.9 percent (584), 25 to 49.9 percent (568), 50 to 74.9 percent (544), and 75 percent or more (520). In all cases, students from schools with lower proportions of free lunch eligibility scored higher, on average, than students from schools with higher proportions of free lunch eligibility (figure 5).

PIRLS Benchmarking Participant: Florida

One state, Florida, participated as a separate education system. A state public school sample was drawn at grade 4 for Florida in order to benchmark its student performance internationally.

  • In Florida public schools, the average score (569) was higher than both the PIRLS scale average and the U.S. average. No education system scored higher than Florida; 4 had scores that were not measurably different, and 48 scored lower. See more of Florida's results (133 KB) from PIRLS 2011.