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Press Release

12/07/10

National Groups Co-Host Briefing on 2009 PISA Results: World-Class Education for Global Competitiveness

Contact:Melissa McGrathmelissa.mcgrath@ccsso.org202-336-7034

WASHINGTON - The results of the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) were released this morning by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), showing that 15-year-old students in the United States continue to rank at average or below average in international comparisons of reading, math, and science.

The bottom line of the 2009 results is: The U.S. ranked 14 out of 65 countries in reading, virtually the same ranking as the 2003 test; 17th in science, which is an improvement from 21st in 2006; and 25th in mathematics, the same ranking as 2006. The good news is that U.S. students, especially those with the lowest performance, have significantly improved in science since 2006. The United States also remains a model of innovation - countries around the world continue to visit the U.S. to study innovations in education. However, these innovations are not being taken to scale so all students can benefit. While other countries continue to learn from the U.S., the U.S. can learn from other countries. "It is critical for states to learn from each other and from the highest performing countries on the PISA exam to improve student learning. We are encouraged by the improvements in science made by our students and hope to see this trend continue," said CCSSO Executive Director, Gene Wilhoit. "It is clear there is still a great deal of work to be done and states are committed to implementing reforms that prepare students for college, work, and life in the global community."

Adds Tony Jackson, Vice President, Education at Asia Society, "The 2009 PISA data demonstrate the rise in the quality of education in Asia - among the top performers were Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and Korea. Aligning education goals to economic development, Asian nations have scoured the world for models of effective education systems, and implemented them consistently through deliberate policies and long-term investments. Any definition of a world-class education must include knowledge of Asia and the language and cultural skills to deal with Asia.  It's a two-way street: America must now learn from-and with-Asia and the world."

"This is one important international lesson for U.S. policymakers," said Bob Wise, President of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. "The fact that the lowest-income American students facing the longest learning odds are matching the average score of Finland, one of the world's best performers, shows the

importance of pushing aggressive reform efforts everywhere. But only having some students competing at this high level isn't enough. For the United States to remain the world's strongest economy, it needs the brainpower of all students."

International comparisons are increasingly relevant and important to understand in today's global environment. No longer do the residents of American cities and states vie only with each other for jobs; their competitors are located in countries around the world.

To remain competitive, the U.S. must reform its education system to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Steps have already been taken in this direction through the Common Core State Standards. "Governors recognize the irrefutable links between a quality education, a productive workforce, and a sound economy. Our competitiveness relies on an education system that can adequately prepare our youth for college and the workforce," said Dane Linn, Director, Education Division, National Governors Association Center for Best Practices. "A foundation for helping all students become globally competitive are the Common Core State Standards, internationally benchmarked college- and career-ready standards that have now been adopted in states representing 87 percent of the nation's K-12 public school population. When our students have the skills and knowledge needed for today's workforce, we will be positioned to compete successfully with any country in the world."

Charles Kolb, President of CED, addressed some of these skills students must possess for today's workforce saying, "American companies cannot compete successfully in the global economy without a workforce that can communicate effectively with their colleagues in other counties.  I consider this a national priority. The business leaders at the Committee for Economic Development (CED) have been working to improve foreign language skills and cultural awareness throughout our nearly 70-year history.  The CED report, Education for Global Leadership: The Importance of International Studies and Foreign Language Education for U. S. Economic and National Security, offers recommendations for educators to expand and improve our student's foreign language knowledge in several concrete ways, including teaching international content across the curriculum and at all levels of learning."

The Asia Society, Alliance for Excellent Education, Committee for Economic Development, Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices joined to co-host a briefing on the PISA results to provide a unique opportunity for media, policymakers, educators, the business community, and other concerned citizens to join an important discussion focused on improving the performance of U.S. students.