And indeed, the most striking result from the 2009 PISA may be the top performance of Chinese students, who participated in the exam for the first time with a pilot program that tested students in several cities.
Mr. Kerachsky and others cautioned not to read too much into the comparisons, since they are from cities – those which draw many of China’s top students – and are hardly representative of all of China. But the results from Shanghai, in particular, which came out No. 1 in all three subject areas, were remarkably high.
In math, for instance, Shanghai students scored an average of 600 (on a scale with a 500-point average). Students in Korea, the top OECD country, scored a 546, and in the United States, they scored 487.
That score puts them in 25th place among the 34 OECD countries, though the score is statistically lower than just 17 of those countries, and indistinguishable from 11 others.
American students scored below the OECD average of 496. The countries outperforming the US include Finland – perennially a top-shower on PISA, along with Korea – Belgium, Estonia, Iceland, France, and the Slovak Republic, among others. US students scored higher than those in just five OECD countries: Greece, Israel, Turkey, Chile, and Mexico.