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For Immediate Release
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Contact:Jacqueline Reis 781-338-3115

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

State's Reading Scores at Same Level as World's Top Nations

MALDEN - The Baker-Polito Administration announced today that Massachusetts students' reading and science scores place the state in a league with the top-scoring nations in the world.

If Massachusetts were a nation, it would share the top spot in reading with eight other nations worldwide. In science, the state's students and those from 10 nations 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.

"I'm thrilled to see Massachusetts students rank among the top performers in the world in reading, math and science," said Governor Charlie Baker. "The Commonwealth is proud of our longstanding commitment to education, and as we continue to compete in a global economy, it is great to see our students perform well on an international stage."

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.

"These results are evidence of what many of us already know: Many Massachusetts schools offer a world-class education," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "I am grateful to all the teachers and families who do so much for our students, and I know educators will join me as we work to ensure that every child in the Commonwealth has access to a first-class education.

"Of particular note is the fact that only 14 percent of the variation in our students' science scores is attributable to family economic background. Eighty-six percent is determined by instruction and district practices," Commissioner Chester said.

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."

Other 2015 PISA results for Massachusetts include:

Reading:

  • Massachusetts students scored an average of 527 in reading. The U.S. average was 497, while the OECD average was 493. Students in North Carolina scored on average 500.
  • No national education systems scored statistically higher than Massachusetts, although eight had similar scores to Massachusetts: Singapore, Hong Kong (China), Canada, Finland, Ireland, Estonia, the Republic of Korea and Japan.
  • Fourteen percent of Massachusetts students were top performers in reading.
  • Female students in Massachusetts (average scores of 536) outperformed male students (average score of 518), but the gender gap has narrowed since 2012 from 32 points to 18 points.

Science:

  • Massachusetts students scored an average of 529 in science. The U.S. average was 496, while the OECD average was 493. Students in North Carolina scored on average 502.
  • The only education system that statistically outperformed Massachusetts in 2015 was Singapore (average score of 556).
  • Fourteen percent of Massachusetts students were top performers in science, compared to 24 percent of students from Singapore, the top achieving system.
  • The difference between the average scores for male (534) and female (524) students in Massachusetts was not statistically significant.

Mathematics:

  • Massachusetts students scored an average of 500 in mathematics. The U.S. average was 470, while the OECD average was 490. Students in North Carolina scored on average 471.
  • The 11 education systems that statistically outperformed Massachusetts on math in 2015 were Singapore, Hong Kong (China), Macau (China), Chinese Taipei, Japan, Beijing- Shanghai-Jiangsu-Guangdong (B-S-J-G) (China), the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Estonia, Canada and the Netherlands.
  • Ten percent of Massachusetts students were top performers in mathematics, compared to 35 percent of students from Singapore, the top achieving system.
  • The difference between the average scores for male (505) and female (496) students in Massachusetts was not statistically significant.
  • For additional information about PISA, visit the National Center for Education Statistics' website at https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/.

    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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    Last Updated: December 6, 2016
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