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U.S. adults score poorly in tests of math, reading, problem-solving

By Associated Press


WASHINGTON » It's long been known that schoolchildren in the U.S. haven't measured well educationally when compared with international peers. Now, results of a new test show adults don't, either.

In math, reading and problem-solving using technology — all skills considered critical for global competitiveness and economic strength — American adults scored below the international average on a global test, according to results released Tuesday.

Adults in Japan, Canada, Australia, Finland and multiple other countries scored significantly higher than the United States in all three areas on the test. Beyond basic reading and math, respondents were tested on activities such as calculating mileage reimbursement, sorting email and comparing food expiration dates on grocery store tags.

Not only did Americans score poorly compared with many international competitors, the findings reinforced just how large the gap is between the nation's high- and low-skilled workers and how hard it is to move ahead when your parents haven't.

In both reading and math, for example, those with college-educated parents did better than those whose parents did not complete high school.

The study, called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, found that it was easier on average to overcome this and other barriers to literacy overseas than in the United States.

Researchers tested about 157,000 people ages 16 to 65 in more than 20 countries and subnational regions. The study was developed and released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is made up of mostly industrialized member countries. The Education Department's Center for Education Statistics participated.

The findings were equally grim for many European countries — Italy and Spain, among the hardest hit by the recession and debt crisis, ranked at the bottom across generations. Unemployment is well over 25 percent in Spain and over 12 percent in Italy. Spain has drastically cut education spending, drawing student street protests.

But in the northern European countries that have fared better, the picture was brighter — and the study credits continuing education. In Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands, more than 60 percent of adults took part is either job training or continuing education. In Italy, by contrast, the rate was half that.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement the nation needs to find ways to reach more adults to upgrade their skills. Otherwise, he said, "no matter how hard they work, these adults will be stuck, unable to support their families and contribute fully to our country."

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tiwtsfm wrote:
Our children don't score well, so should we be surprised that our adults don't measure up? Providing opportunities for our adult population to improve their reading, math, and problem solving abilities will actually improve these skills in our children. This is so, especially since the DOE advocates for more parent involvement in their children's education. Smarter parents will make smarter children. No amount or universal preschool will really help our children succeed as long as the adults in their lives don't improve also. Make adult education universal, cost effective and easy to access.
on October 8,2013 | 05:36AM
hilocal wrote:
tiwtsfm, years ago when I was involved with the DOE, what it meant by parent involvement was fundraising. Teachers with a few exceptions, the HSTA, and the DOE did not want parents to have a voice in policies or practices. Has that changed?
on October 8,2013 | 06:12AM
mitt_grund wrote:
Agree totally. The object was to look like you wanted parental and community involvement but keep them from causing trouble. In fact that is one of the unsaid points of assessing principals. Some of the most hard to reach principals, who constantly scammed their parents and community volunteers were the ones most highly regarded by DOE admin, and got promotions. But another area of total disappointment is the average American's awareness of American history, good and bad. I wonder how many of us adults born in the USA would be able to pass the U.S. citizenship test.
on October 8,2013 | 03:46PM
wiliki wrote:
Kids don't look to adults for role models because most consider their parents un-kool. Better to spend the money on robotics or similar programs which elevate kids to the same status that jock athletes have in schools. We should never look at kids interested in STEM subjects as nerds.
on October 8,2013 | 10:53AM
mayihavesumor wrote:
The best idea Obama ever had was an educated America would be a strong America. My son is getting an education in a trade that will guarantee a living wage thanks to a Pell Grant. Just like how the G.I. bill helped educate and strengthen this country. Remember Romney's advice to low income people on how to pay for an education that could improve their lives? Borrow $20K from your parents.
on October 8,2013 | 07:55AM
wiliki wrote:
I'd like to see this subsidy coupled with public service. The military have this benefit. We should form similar opportunities for public service.
on October 8,2013 | 10:55AM
South76 wrote:
Parent involvement is the key to improve scores...One way to get parents involve in their kids education is to lower tax burden on families....less tax means more money going home and in turn more time for parents to be home instead of having two to three jobs just to make ends meet...but when we have a government that is bent on taxing and spending we are just getting no where. With more social programs popping up...hint, hint, more taxes needed to confiscated, we are not moving up but moving down the list.
on October 8,2013 | 08:58AM
mayihavesumor wrote:
South, your situation sounds dire. Working three jobs,just making ends meet, and paying a crushing tax burden. Here's a suggestion. Call your parents from a break at job three and borrow $20K for trade school. I hope you don't drive the same roads I do.
on October 8,2013 | 09:44AM
wiliki wrote:
Why is this such a big issue? Most adults do not want to do work which use these skill? Better to try to reach the children.
on October 8,2013 | 10:50AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Silicon Valley with all it's genious gene pool is doing well. Medicine is doing well in the USA. Are we sure we are capturing the correct picture in the USA? Unless Silicon Valley personnel and our doctors and nurses are mostly from foreign countries.
on October 8,2013 | 12:15PM
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