Over the last few decades, the United States has trailed other developed (and some developing) nations on international measures that assess student performance in reading, mathematics, and science. The purpose of the Education Olympics is to contrast America’s tepid academic performance with its athletic dominance. While America’s athletes bring home a trove of medals from Beijing, its student competitors are expected to be relatively barren of jewelry (see chart above). We want to ask: What will the United States do to turn around this critical situation?
The data on which the events in the Education Olympics are based come from four main international measures, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), and the Civic Education Study (CIVED). There are 58 events, each based on test scores from a section of one of the above exams, except for a handful of events that reflect measures of educational attainment.
MP: The U.S. has won 101 medals this year at the 2008 Summer Olympics, but only a single medal in the 2008 Education Olympics, according to the Thomas Fordham Institute. The U.S. had the highest 9th grade scores on the CivEd subtest—civic skills. Unfortunately, in the 24 different science and math categories, the U.S. ranked in the top ten only three times, and never ranked higher than 7th place.