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U.S. Scores Slightly Above Average on PISA Problem-solving Test

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April 9, 2014

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U.S. Scores Slightly Above Average on PISA Problem-solving Test

Students in the United States scored marginally above the OECD average in the 2012 PISA assessment of problem solving, behind 12 nations and several economic areas in China.

U.S. students who are strong performers in math did significantly better with problem solving, on average, than strong math performers from other nations. In addition, U.S. students performed better when they were required to discover information needed before solving the problem, than when all the information needed to solve the problem was presented at the outset.

According to the recent OECD Survey of Adult Skills, about 10 percent of workers across the globe are faced every day with complex problems that take at least 30 minutes to solve. And, as we've reported, U.S. employers report that problem-solving, critical-thinking and related skills are needed--and lacking--in the workforce.

Research has demonstrated that CTE students are particularly likely to gain skills and experience in problem solving. One of the findings from the PISA 2012 problem-solving assessment reinforces this connection between CTE and problem solving: In Malaysia, Turkey and the Shanghai area of China, where more than 1 in eight students are enrolled in a vocational program, these students demonstrate better problem-solving skills in comparison to students with comparable math, reading and science scores enrolled in general education programs.

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