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PISA 2012 Results - Introduction

Reporting PISA 2012 Results

This web report presents performance on PISA 2012 in mathematics, science, and reading literacy from a U.S. perspective. Results are presented for the 65 education systems, including the United States, that participated in PISA 2012 and for the three U.S. states—Connecticut, Florida, and Massachusetts—that participated as separate education systems.  These three states opted to have separate samples of public-school schools and students included in PISA in order to obtain state-level results.

In this report, results are presented in terms of average scale scores and the percentage of 15-year-old students reaching the PISA proficiency levels, comparing the United States with other participating education systems. For average scale scores, results are presented for overall scores, for content and process subscales for mathematics literacy, and by gender. For proficiency levels, results are reported both in terms of the percentage reaching each proficiency level, and also the percentage reaching level 5 or above and the percentage below level 2. Higher proficiency levels represent the knowledge, skills, and capabilities needed to perform tasks of greater complexity. At levels 5 and 6, students demonstrate higher level skills and may be referred to as “top performers” in the subject. Conversely, students performing below level 2 are below what the OECD calls “a baseline level of proficiency, at which students begin to demonstrate the…literacy competencies that will enable them to participate effectively and productively in life” (OECD 2010, p. 154).

For both the U.S. sample and the three states, results are also presented in terms of the U.S-only dimensions of student race/ethnicity and school socio-economic contexts. These results are given both in terms of average scale scores and proficiency levels. In addition, detailed results for U.S. and international trends over time in mathematics, science, and reading literacy are provided. Overall average scale score results for the states of Connecticut, Florida, and Massachusetts are also included in this report. Results for the problem-solving and financial literacy assessments will be released in 2014.

In reporting PISA results, the OECD differentiates between OECD member countries, of which there are 34, and all other participating education systems, some of which are countries and some of which are subnational entities. In the OECD’s PISA reports, OECD member countries and other participating education systems are reported in the tables and figures in the main body of the report, along with the average for the OECD countries (the average of all OECD member country averages with each country weighted equally), and are discussed in the accompanying text. Also, for some participating education systems, results for subnational entities—including, in 2012, the three U.S. states—are reported in appendices of the OECD PISA reports, but are not discussed in the report text.

To facilitate readers moving between the OECD and U.S. national PISA reports, this report’s tables and figures follow the OECD convention of placing OECD member countries and all other participating education systems in the main part of the tables and figures. These are all referred to as education systems in this report, and there are 65 altogether.  The three U.S. states that participated in PISA 2012 are presented in a separate part of the tables and figures; results for the states are discussed in the text but are not included in counts of education systems performing above, below or not measurably different from the United States.

For a more condensed version of the PISA 2012 results presented here, the print report is available for download or browsing at The print report presents select findings from the mathematics literacy, reading literacy, science literacy, and computer-based assessments, including results for high and low performers by proficiency level, average scale scores, and trends in performance for the U.S.

All statistically significant differences described in this report are at the .05 level. Differences that are statistically significant are discussed using comparative terms such as “higher” and “lower.” Differences that are not statistically significant are either not discussed or referred to as “not measurably different.” In almost all instances, the tests for significance used were standard t tests. No adjustments were made for multiple comparisons.