International Reading Data from 2011 PIRLS – Huge Surprise Again: Sky Isn’t Falling

I just started looking at the data in the PIRLS study that was released on Monday.

Once again, US students are not at the bottom as many politicians and pundits would have you believe. In fact, as you can see pretty clearly this graph (from page 38, exhibit 1.1) , if the data are correct, our 4th graders read much closer to the top than to the bottom in the countries tested. Number 6 out of over 40 countries isn’t all that horrible.

PIRLS reading 4th grade 2011 by nation

I foresee, however, that certain pundits will spin this as evidence that American students — and more importantly, their teachers — are doing horribly.


Another non-surprise in this data: there is a gap in every single country between those who read well and those who read poorly. The width of the bands on the right is proportional to the gap in scores between the highest-achievers and the lowest achievers. Just as on the TIMMS, the gap between the scores of those at the top 5% of students in each country and those at the bottom 5% seem to be very wide in Romania and some middle Eastern countries, and narrowest in The Netherlands. The corresponding gap in the US seems of middling size.

Or else the data reported by principals might not be accurate.

Published in: on December 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. I wrote a bit about PIRLS here –

    I hope to have something more coherent soon…

    Basically, Florida is a very close 2nd in this test (just behind Hong Kong), and Florida is 14th on the NAEP 4th grade reading, implying that if all US states had individual scores (Florida is the only one), the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Upper Midwest would dominate the global rankings.


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