Educational testing service just released a new analysis of how young adults in the Unites States stack up against their counterparts in other industrialized nations.
“…despite having the highest levels of educational attainment of any previous American generation, these young adults on average demonstrate relatively weak skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments compared to their international peers. These findings hold true when looking at millennials overall, our best performing and most educated, those who are native born, and those from the highest socioeconomic background. Equally troubling is that these findings represent a decrease in literacy and numeracy skills for U.S. adults when compared with results from previous adult surveys.”
Because interesting claims are being made about some of the fad education ideas that have been tried and discarded in this country since the 1990s, I decided to look at one specific age group covered in the report, the 16 to 24 year olds. This graph shows how younger US adults stacked up against their peers in a 2012 test from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies.
As you can see, US 16 to 24 year olds scored behind 21 other nations, including a number of former Soviet satellite states. Similar sad pictures are presented for literacy and problem solving skills in technology-rich environments.
Keep in mind that the 16 to 24 year olds of 2012 spent their entire K to 12 education experience in schools that supposedly were being radically reformed by post-1990 efforts such as Kentucky’s KERA. The 24-year olds started school in 1993 and the 16-year olds entered Kindergarten around 2001.
We heard an awful lot of claims about how US education was improving in this time frame, but it is clear any improvement has been outstripped by better results in a notable number of other countries.
Technical Note: Data to create the graph comes from Table C-2 in “AMERICA’S SKILLS CHALLENGE: Millennials and the Future.”