For Immediate Release - December 03, 2013

Massachusetts Students Score among World Leaders in Assessment of Reading, Mathematics, and Science Literacy

MALDEN – The Patrick Administration today announced that Massachusetts students exceeded the national average and scored among the top performing education systems worldwide in reading, mathematics, and science literacy, according to today's release of results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA is a triennial international survey designed to assess how well 15-year-old students can apply the knowledge and skills they have learned in school to real-life situations.

According to the 2012 PISA results, Massachusetts students performed best in reading literacy and tied for fourth worldwide, trailing only students from Shanghai-China, Hong King-China, and Singapore. In mathematics and science literacy, Massachusetts students tied for tenth and seventh, respectively, among the 65 participating countries and education systems.

"I am tremendously proud of our students for once again performing as global leaders in reading, math and science," said Governor Deval Patrick. "Education is the Commonwealth's calling card around the world and central to our competitiveness in the global economy. We invest in education because we believe that it is the single most important investment government can make in our collective future."

"I am thrilled with these results and so appreciative of all of the great work on the part of educators and students across the Commonwealth," said Education Secretary Matthew Malone. "These results show that we are hard at work in preparing and training our students to fill high-demand positions in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math that have kept Massachusetts at the forefront of our global innovation-based economy."

Last year, nearly 510,000 students participated in PISA, including 6,100 students from the United States. Massachusetts was one of three U.S. states that participated for the first time as international benchmarking systems in order to receive state-level results that can be compared to the results of other participating systems. A random, representative sample of more than 1,700 students from 49 Massachusetts public schools took a two-hour PISA test between October and November 2012.

Students from Massachusetts outscored students from the other two participates states, Connecticut and Florida, as well as the national average in all three subjects.

"The performance of our 15-year-olds, particularly in reading where they scored among the world's leaders, reflects the tremendous efforts of educators and students statewide to achieve a world-class education," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "The top performing countries are actively working on upgrading their program of study, and so is Massachusetts. We are implementing new college and career ready standards, working to turn around our lowest performing schools and districts, and enhancing the effectiveness of all educators to support their growth and development."

PISA, first conducted in 2000, is coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization of industrialized countries. In the U.S., PISA is conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. Results are reported both in terms of average scaled scores and the percent of students reaching selected proficiency levels. Average scores are reported on a scale from 0 to 1000. There are six proficiency levels in mathematics and science literacy and seven levels in reading literacy. In all three subjects, students reaching level 5 or above demonstrate higher-level skills and are considered "top performers" in the subject. Students scoring below level 2, considered a baseline of proficiency by OECD, are referred to as "lower performers."

Other 2012 PISA results for Massachusetts include:

 Reading Literacy:

  • Massachusetts students scored an average of 527 in reading literacy. The U.S. average was 498, while the OECD average was 496. Students in Connecticut scored on average 521, while students in Florida had an average score of 492.
  • The three top performing education systems, which scored statistically higher than Massachusetts, were Shanghai-China (average score of 570), Hong Kong-China (545), and Singapore (542).
  • Sixteen (16) percent of Massachusetts students scored at proficiency level 5 or higher in reading literacy, compared to 25 percent of students from Shanghai-China, the top achieving system.
  • Female students in Massachusetts (average score of 542) outperformed male students (average score of 511).

Mathematics Literacy:

  • Massachusetts students scored an average of 514 in mathematics literacy. The U.S. average was 481, while the OECD average was 494. Students in Connecticut scored on average 506, while students in Florida had an average score of 467.
  • The nine education systems that statistically outperformed Massachusetts in 2012 include Shanghai-China (average score of 613), Singapore (573), Hong Kong-China (561), Chinese Taipei (560), Republic of Korea (554), Macao-China (538), Japan (536), Liechtenstein (535), and Switzerland (531).
  • Nineteen (19) percent of Massachusetts students scored at proficiency level 5 or higher in mathematics literacy, compared to 55 percent of students from Shanghai-China, the top achieving system.
  • Male students in Massachusetts (average score of 518) outperformed female students (average score of 509).

Science Literacy:

  • Massachusetts students scored an average of 527 in science literacy. The U.S. average was 497, while the OECD average was 501. Students in Connecticut scored on average 521, while students in Florida had an average score of 485.
  • The six education systems that statistically outperformed Massachusetts in 2012 include Shanghai-China (average score of 580), Hong Kong-China (555), Singapore (551), Japan (547), Finland (545), and Estonia (541).
  • Fourteen (14) percent of Massachusetts students scored at proficiency level 5 or higher in science literacy, compared to 27 percent of students in Shanghai-China, the top achieving system.
  • The average scores for male students in Massachusetts (average score of 529) did not differ significantly from the scores for female students (average score of 526).

For additional information about PISA, visit the National Center for Education Statistics' website at http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/.

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