American high school students slip in global education rankings

The influential Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has just released its much-awaited triennial study of global education systems, and once again, the U.S. earns bad grades. According to the study, American 15 year-olds tested were average in reading and science skills, below-average in math.

"It is not very different from where we found the U.S. in the past," OECD education chief Andreas Schleicher told Fox News, "but it's not very good either."

Overall, according to the U.S. Department of Education, American students' rankings in math have slipped from 24th to 29th compared to the last test in 2010. In science, they've gone from 19th to 22nd, and from 10th to 20th in reading.

That drop is mostly due to surging performance from regions abroad, especially Asia. China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore are all ahead of the U.S., as are European countries like Poland, Finland and Holland, as well as neighbor Canada and Australia.

When the last study was released, Education Secretary Duncan said it was a "wake-up call" for education administrators. Many experts see high educational standards as a key to global economic success. Amanda Ripley, author of "The Smartest Kids in the World," told Fox News, "I guess we've hit the snooze button."

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    Money is not a predictor of performance in the study. America spends more per student than all but five countries in the world.  Neither is childhood poverty, diversity or high levels of immigration. Many countries featuring those attributes also scored high.

    Education experts tell Fox News it comes down to high standards, a will to improve, and especially an elevation of the teaching profession.  "We really have to decide as a country it is important for all kids to master rigorous concepts and learn to think," education author Ripley told Fox.

    If it's any consolation, according to authorities, many of the "innovations" used by other countries to get ahead, like placing good teachers in bad school districts, have their roots in the States. Still, say analysts, there is work to be done.  "Success is not in having great ideas," the OECD's Schleicher told Fox, "its putting them into practice."