Reading skills among the highest in the world based on 2018 test

As+a+country%2C+the+United+States+performed+better+than+the+average+in+reading+and+science+and+slightly+below+average+in+math.

Image used with permission from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development

As a country, the United States performed better than the average in reading and science and slightly below average in math.

Jiwoo Han

Top three worldwide in reading.

Top four worldwide in science.

Top eight worldwide in math.

Those were among the highlights of results from a test given to a randomly selected group of 15-year-old Sunny Hills students in 2018.

Known as the Programme for International Student Assessment [PISA], the test is given every three years and administered by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] in France.

The group randomly selects schools in countries worldwide and asks administrators at those campuses if they’d like to volunteer their students to take the exam that measures “15-yearolds’ ability to use their reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges,” according to OECD’s website.

Principal Allen Whitten said he received a report from OECD Nov. 9 showing that the students who took the exam ranked among the best high schools worldwide.

“I was blown away and thrilled,” Whitten said. “I know we are doing a great job preparing kids for the world they will face post-high school, but to see that we are at this level was just awesome.”

OECD’s website provided a PDF of findings based only on results from the 15-year-olds who took the test in 215 U.S. schools.

“Students in the United States performed above the OECD average in reading (505 score points) and science (502), and below the OECD average in mathematics (478),” according to the report. The highest score total in each category is 600.

“Their scores were similar to those of students in Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom in at least two of these three subjects,” according to the report.

Of the nearly 2,400 students enrolled on campus in 2018, 51 15-year-olds — sophomores and juniors at Sunny Hills — were randomly chosen to take the exam, which was administered from the end of first period to part of fifth period.

In the United States, 4,838 students in 215 schools completed the assessment, according to the OECD’s report.

“We have incredibly talented teachers serving a wonderful community that values education,” Whitten wrote in his Nov. 13 digital newsletter to staff, parents and students regarding the test results. “You combine that with the Sunny Hills culture of high achievement, and magic happens.”

The test itself was not troubling to the group of Sunny Hills students who after finishing the exam received a $25 check made out to their names and a certificate indicating completion of four hours of community service. Breakfast burritos for test-takers were also offered by school officials before the assessment started.

“The test format included a mixture of multiple-choice questions and free-response questions,” senior Alyssa Ogas said. “I don’t personally recall experiencing any struggles while taking the test.”

Sunny Hills even tied for first place in Reading, with provinces of China and Singapore, and senior Sebastian Villarreal agrees that he did not struggle with that portion.

“There is a big focus on reading especially in 10th-grade curriculum, and it helped most of us on that part,” Villarreal said.

English teacher Suzanne Boxdorfer said she was very excited when she first heard about Sunny Hills’ success.

“I was surprised not because I don’t think Sunny Hills is amazing and high achieving academically, but because America is generally behind in academics,” Boxdorfer said. “Sunny Hills students are not, so I will continue to teach the students as I’ve always done, knowing they are more than capable.”

This story originally appeared in the Dec. 14 print issue, which can be read here.