Results of Program for International Student Assessment Highlight Inequities, International Lessons for U.S. Education

For interviews, contact: Lisa Johnson Kiefer
202-478-4502 or

(December 3, 2013, Washington, D.C.) Today the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a worldwide study of 15-year-old students’ performance on mathematics, science and reading. American students’ performance remained largely unchanged from the previous PISA that was administered in 2009, with the U.S. scoring below the OECD average in math and close to the OECD average in science and reading.

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) calls on policymakers and education leaders to consider the results along with findings from the “Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education – Lessons from PISA 2012 for the United States” carefully. Based on these latest PISA outcomes and on the OECD’s 2011 recommendations to help the U.S. become more globally competitive, AACTE highlights the following lessons:

  • Educational inequality is a serious problem in the U.S.
    In schools where less than 10 percent of students are at or below the poverty level, the U.S. consistently ranks among the top-performing nations. However, in schools where 25 percent or more of students are at or below poverty level, the U.S. performs below the OECD average. The U.S. needs a comprehensive anti-poverty policy with concrete targets for improving equity and directing resources to students with the greatest needs.

  • There is no “silver bullet” to improve teacher quality or teacher preparation.
    As journalist Thomas Friedman recently discovered while visiting high-scoring schools in Shanghai, the top-performing nation in the 2012 PISA results, “There is no secret” to their success. In the 2011 OECD report on recommendations for the U.S., high-performing nations are not known to overemphasize testing programs, evaluate teachers based on their students’ test scores, favor uncredentialed teachers or use other reform targets popular in the U.S. Instead, the report urges a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to building a stronger education system. For example, rather than focusing heavily on entry standards into teacher preparation programs the OECD says that the “recruitment of top-performing teachers can only be one of several components of human resource management in education.”

  • High-performing nations invest in teacher quality both during and after initial preparation.
    The 2011 report shows that top-performing countries focus on preparing teachers as professionals in clinical settings, which includes both extensive coursework and at least a full year working under a mentor teacher in a partner school district. In countries such as Germany and Japan – whose students regularly score high on PISA – teachers who have completed preparation programs then enter the profession with another one or two years of heavily supervised teaching. During this period, beginning teachers typically receive a reduced workload, strong mentoring from master teachers and continued formal instruction before they are given complete control over a classroom. The quality of induction programs in the U.S., in contrast, is uneven at best and deserves more resources to support new teachers adequately in their early years of teaching.

“American schools excel when you control for poverty, but with our poverty rate higher than ever, U.S. performance on PISA will not improve without a dedicated anti-poverty policy in place,” said Sharon P. Robinson, Ed.D., president and CEO of AACTE. “All students should experience an education system that offers them productive, engaging and inspiring opportunities to improve their intellectual and social capacity to be members of our global community.”

Many teacher preparation practices of top-performing nations are being implemented by AACTE members around the U.S., including strengthening partnerships between teacher preparation programs and PK-12 schools, investing in clinical and residency models and building capacity in teacher candidates – such as through the new edTPA support and assessment system – to ensure that new teachers can effectively teach their subject area to diverse groups of students. Support for these practices is an integral component of AACTE’s advocacy agenda, particularly regarding the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant program, which is the only federal investment specifically targeted to reforming higher education-based teacher preparation. AACTE is eager for policymakers and others to heed OECD’s lessons regarding teacher preparation and to support these promising reforms.

“Our nation’s students deserve highly effective teachers who are well prepared before and during their career in the classroom,” Dr. Robinson said. “The teacher preparation profession continues to dedicate significant resources to implementing successful practices of competitive nations. We now need national and state policymakers to put forth an agenda that supports the expansion of these efforts.”

For more information on AACTE’s policy positions, what AACTE members are doing to improve teacher preparation and more, visit or AACTE’s new blog, Ed Prep Matters, at


AACTE: Serving Learners
The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) is a national alliance of educator preparation programs dedicated to the highest quality professional development of teachers and school leaders in order to enhance PK-12 student learning. The 800 institutions holding AACTE membership represent public and private colleges and universities in every state, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam. AACTE’s reach and influence fuel its mission of serving learners by providing all school personnel with superior training and continuing education. For more information, visit

Planner icon
Events registration icon
Learning Center icon
Membership directory icon
Online community icon
PEDS icon
profile manager icon
Resource Library icon
Submission center icon
Voting system icon