Falling behind


Once more, the performance of U.S. students in math, science, and reading compared to their peers in 64 countries is mediocre. So says the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

The PISA test, administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, was taken by 6,000 U.S. 15-year-olds chosen randomly from 161 schools in 2012. The global sample was 510,000 students.

The countries with the top student scores were China, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan. Germany, Poland, Finland, and Canada also did well. Compared with the United States, 28 countries scored higher in math, 22 in science, and 19 in reading. Worse, U.S. students’ 2012 rankings were down from the last PISA test in 2009.

Spending per student was not a conclusive factor. The United States was fifth in that category, after Austria, Luxembourg, Norway, and Switzerland. The United States was close in the rankings to Slovakia, but Slovakia spends only 46 percent as much per student.

Poverty may be a key element. “Socioeconomic disadvantage has a notable input on student performance in the United States,” the report said.

The test scores undercut the pretenses of Americans who think the United States is exceptional. The rising performance by Asian competitors indicates that American education — and how the country cares for its youth — need a shake-up if we are to keep from falling behind much of the world. There is no acceptable reason for this unimpressive showing.