Massachusetts Students Score among World Leaders on PISA Reading, Science and Math Tests

Massachusetts students’ reading and science scores place the state in a league with the top-scoring nations in the world. These results are evidence of what many of us already know: Massachusetts schools offer a world-class education.

If Massachusetts were a nation, it would share the top spot in reading with eight other nations worldwide. In science, the state’s students came in second, trailing only students from Singapore. In math, 11 other nations were ahead of the Commonwealth.

The results come from the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a triennial international survey designed to assess how well 15-year-old students can apply their knowledge and skills.

Last year, over 500,000 students participated in PISA, including more than 5,700 students from the United States. Massachusetts was one of two U.S. states that participated in order to receive state-level results that can be compared to the results of other participating systems. A random, representative sample of approximately 1,600 students from 49 Massachusetts public schools took a two-hour, computer-based PISA test between September and November 2015.

Students from Massachusetts outscored students from the other participating state, North Carolina, as well the nation as a whole.

The Program for International Student Assessment, first conducted in 2000, is coordinated by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization of industrialized countries. In this country, 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 of 0 to 1,000. There are six proficiency levels in mathematics and science and seven levels in reading. 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, which the OECD considers baseline proficiency, are referred to as “lower performers.”

For additional information about PISA, visit the National Center for Education Statistics’ website by clicking here.

In addition to PISA, OECD also offers the OECD Test for Schools, an international benchmarking assessment for individual schools. The voluntary, computer-based test takes three hours and 15 minute of testing time for 50 to 85 15-year-old students at a single school and assesses a school’s performance and students’ problem solving and critical thinking skills.

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