This report from the National Center for Education Statistics in the
Institute of Education Sciences summarizes the performance of U.S.
fourth-grade students on the Progress in International Reading
Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2006 assessment, comparing their scores with
their peers internationally.
On average, U.S. fourth-graders scored higher than their peers
worldwide, with average scores higher than the PIRLS scale average
(540 vs. 500), and a greater percentage of U.S. students reaching
each achievement benchmark compared to the international median
PIRLS is led by the International Association for the Evaluation of
Educational Achievement (IEA) and has been administered twice, in
2001 and 2006. The United States participated in both years. In
2006, 45 education systems participated, including 38 countries, 5
Canadian provinces, and the separate English- and French-speaking
education systems in Belgium.
The average score for U.S. students was:
* higher than the average score in 22 education systems
* lower than 10 education systems and>
* not significantly different from 12 education systems.
In 2001, the U.S. scored higher than 23 education systems, lower
than 3 education systems, and not significantly different from 8
education systems. Note that since 2001, several countries, as well
as subnational education systems, have been added to the overall
Compared to 2001, the average score for U.S. students in 2006 was
not significantly different overall. On the 2006 assessment, the
average score for U.S. students in reading for literary experience
was 4 points higher than their average score in reading to acquire
and use information. In 2001, the difference was 17 points.
Other findings include the following:
* 12 percent of U.S. students reached the advanced benchmark,
compared to the international median of 7 percent.
> * 47 percent of U.S. students met the high benchmark, compared to
> the international median of 41 percent.
> * 82 percent of U.S. students met the intermediate benchmark,
> compared to the international median of 76 percent.
> * Average scores for girls on the combined reading literacy scale
> were higher than average scores for boys in 43 of the 45
> participating education systems, including the United States.
> To download, view and print the publication as a PDF file, please
> For more information on PIRLS, visit http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pirls/index.asp .