After more than a decade of Congressional programs and educational investment, a new report shows that the U.S. has made virtually no improvement in reaching its lowest-performing students. And in some subjects, like math, those students are worse off than they were before.

The report, released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, took a global view of the progress that has been made in helping the weakest students get stronger. Researchers looked at the number of students who scored below what are considered "minimally proficient" standards in math, reading and science and compared the data from 2003 and 2012. Sadly, the outlook is as grim in the rest of the world as it is here at home.

Worldwide, the numbers have barely budged in reading and science. And they have worsened in math.

Trends in the U.S. mirror this global picture. Among U.S. 15-year-olds, 26 percent were low-performing in math, 17 percent in reading, and 18 percent in science. That's more than a quarter of U.S. students who will graduate from high school without a basic proficiency in math. And almost 20 percent in reading and science.

So the problem is twofold. First, that there are so many low-performing students around the world. And second, after 10 years, the situation has either remained stagnant, or gotten worse. In this country, that adds up to a decade of No Child Left Behind, through which teachers were forced to focus their energy on low-performing students to the exclusion of the students who were passing or excelling, all without seeing any results for their efforts.

And around the world the situation is the same. If you look at these three maps showing the percentage of low-performing students in various OECD countries in each subjects, you'll notice two things.

  1. The patterns are the same for math, reading and science.
  2. U.S. students are below average in all three subjects.

Yes, there have been some improvements in reading and science but are they enough to make U.S. students globally competitive? It doesn't look like it.

Percentage of Low-Performing Students in Mathematics

Percentage of Low-Performing Students in Reading

Percentage of Low-Performing Students in Science