Rating U.S. Kids' Reading Skills

kids read over board
Fourth-graders in the United States score better in reading than many of their peers around the world, but poor and minority U.S. students still lag behind other U.S. learners, a new international study shows.

Students in U.S. public schools outperformed 23 of 34 other countries in the project, known as the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study of 2001. Those countries ranged from top scorers, including Sweden and England, to such lower performers as Iran and Kuwait.

Among the highlights:

  • 65 percent of U.S. students received more than six hours of reading instruction per week, compared to the international average of 28 percent. Almost all U.S. students attended schools with curriculum that emphasized reading, while 78 percent of students internationally did.
  • Girls scored higher than boys in reading in the United States and every other country.
  • Within the United States, white and Asian students scored better than black and Hispanics. Each U.S. racial and ethnic group scored above the international average except blacks.
  • U.S. students in private schools scored significantly higher than U.S. students in public schools. Also in the United States, students in high-poverty schools score lower than counterparts in low-poverty schools.

    The study was organized by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. The National Center of Education States led the U.S. component.

    Also Wednesday, the National Center released an educational comparison of the United States and its "G-8" peers: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom. The study repackages findings reported in other reviews.

    Key themes include:

  • The United States had the second-lowest student-to-teacher ratio in primary education, but in secondary education, U.S. schools had the second highest ratio of students to teachers.
  • Per-student spending on primary and secondary education was higher in the United States than in the five other countries that reported data.
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