Maybe our schools are better than we are being led to believe!
Results of the 2011 PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) show that the only countries with better 4th Grade reading levels are Russia, Finland, and Singapore. This is a remarkable success for U.S. public education, especially when you take into account Finland’s tiny population and 4% percent poverty level, and Singapore being a city-state.
According to the PIRLS, a highly-regarded study, since the last time the exam was given in 2006, American 4th graders have increased their average score by 16 points, from 540 to 556 on a 0-to-1,000-point scale, far above the PIRLS average of 500.
Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which analyzes the U.S. results, said he saw positive signs about how the United States is progressing compared with countries, “I tend to be quite optimistic on where the U.S. performs internationally,” he said. “We have a large and diverse set of kids to educate, and I think the results show we are doing quite well.”
Given by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, a group of research organizations, in partnership with the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College, PIRLS was administered to 325,000 students around the world last spring, including 12,726 in 370 schools in the U.S. It produces an overall score in reading for each education system, as well as scores in two sub-areas: reading for literary experience, and reading to acquire and use information. Students are given passages to read, and a series of multiple-choice and short constructed-response questions to answer.
American students did better on the literary (563) than the informational (553) parts of the test, although PIRLS officials caution against comparing one to the other. The U.S. outshone more of its PIRLS competitors on the literary aspect of reading than on the informational as well. Only Finland had higher literary reading scores, but Russia, Singapore, and Finland all outscored the U.S. on informational reading.