Report shows math, reading standards internationally competitive

IOWA CI T Y, I A—The new Common Core State Standards can help make the U.S. education system competitive with those of the highest-performing nations in the world, according to a new research report from ACT, Inc.

In the report, “Affirming the Goal: Is College and Career Readiness an Internationally Competitive Standard?,” ACT examines how performance standards in reading and math on PLANĀ®, its college and career readiness assessment for 10th graders, compare to performance on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a worldwide assessment of 15-year-old students’ academic achievement.

The results show that the performance standard of college and career readiness—and therefore the new Common Core State Standards, which were designed to help all U.S. students become ready for college and career—is internationally competitive, falling well within the range of the highest-performing countries on PISA reading and math.

“Our findings affirm that college and career readiness is the right goal for U. S. education,” said Jon Erickson, interim president of ACT’s Education Division. “If we ensure that all U. S. students graduate from high school ready for college and career, we can be confident that we are truly offering them a world-class education.”

The Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics are based on ACT’s definition of college and career readiness. ACT research has long defined college readiness as the level of preparation a student needs to be ready to enroll and succeed in first-year, credit-bearing courses at a postsecondary institution (such as a two- or four-year college, trade school or technical school) without remediation. ACT research has also demonstrated that the level of knowledge and skills needed in workforce training programs is comparable to that needed in f irst- year college coursework.

“We have plenty of evidence that our states have been dummy ing down standards for decades,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “But thanks to the courage and leadership of governors and chief state school officers, states are working together to adopt a common set of standards that track whether students are career- and college-ready. Now, ACT and others are beginning to document that these standards will tell us if A merican students are truly prepared to succeed in the knowledge-based, global economy.”

PISA results have consistently shown the performance of U.S. students lagging significantly behind the performance of students in many other countries. In 2009, U. S. students performed below the PISA average in mathematics and just slightly above the average in reading. In addition, many countries have shown significant gains on PISA over the past decade, while U.S. performance has remained relatively stagnant.

The research results presented in “Affirming the Goal” are based on a comprehensive analysis of 10th-grade students at 77 high schools across the U.S. who took both PLAN and the PISA.

“In a global economy—where all work can be digitized, automated, or outsourced anywhere on the globe—the benchmark for educational success is no longer measured by state standards, but by the best-performing education systems internationally,” said Andreas Schleicher, head of the Indicators and Analysis Division at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and director of the PISA. “This study provides a robust method to establish the global competitiveness of college and career readiness state standards through ACT measurement instruments.”

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