When it comes to the skills and knowledge students need to succeed in a modern world, our students are not as good as we think they are. [Arne] Duncan’s sobering reaction to the latest round of international student testing reveals an all-too-familiar result:“The big picture of U.S. performance on the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment is straightforward and stark: It is a picture of educational stagnation. … Fifteen-year-olds in the U.S. today are average in science and reading literacy, and below average in mathematics, compared to their counterparts in [other industrialized] countries.”If that is not enough to scare you, a new report on international differences in human capital should. It takes aim not at the performance of students, but of adults.
The report from the National Center for Education Statistics presents results from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, an international skills test for adults aged 16-74. It tests three adult competencies: literacy, numeracy and “problem solving in technology-rich environments,” or digital literacy.
U.S. adults did not have a good showing, as evidenced in the figure below. Of the 23 countries assessed, the United States scored average in literacy (not shown for clarity), below-average in numeracy and tied for last in digital literacy. These results do not bode well for American economic competitiveness, especially when our low scores are contrasted with our average income, which is the highest among tested countries.