Studies highlight importance of education and training: U.S. workers falling behind; teenagers lag global peers.

We’ve written often about the importance of closing the skills gap, the shortage of workers with the education and training required for success in today’s economy, and the finding that by 2030 70 percent of high school graduates will need a postsecondary credential to satisfy workforce requirements.

New research underscores the urgency of the challenge. Bloomberg News reports U.S. workers are not keeping up in a fast-paced economy. (Study results here.)

U.S. workers are failing to improve the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly global economy, according to a government agency report released last month.

The National Center for Education Statistics asked 3,300 respondents ages 16-to-65 to read simple passages and solve basic math problems. What the researchers found is that literacy, numeracy and digital problem-solving ability in the U.S. have stagnated over the past few years.

These are fundamental, not advanced skills. 

“These results are another signal that many Americans struggle with the most basic of math skills,” NCES Associate Commissioner Peggy Carr said in a statement. “We need to better equip Americans with the numeracy skills that they need for success, starting in middle and high school.”

And the news is not much more encouraging for high school students, reports The Washington Post.

Teenagers in the United States continue to lag behind their peers in East Asia and Europe in reading, math and science, according to results of an international exam that suggest U.S. schools are not doing enough to prepare young people for the competitive global economy.

The results of the Program for International Student Assessment – widely known as PISA – were released Tuesday and show widening disparities between high- and low-performing students in the United States, adding to a growing body of evidence showing worsening inequity in public schools.

Critics caution against over interpretation of the results, though there’s reason to be cautious about the cautions, given other evidence of the skills gap and so on. More on why we should be concerned.

Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of the assessment division at the National Center for Education Statistics, said the results sent an unmistakable message that U.S. students are in trouble when it comes to how they perform in math relative to their international peers. “The rankings are telling,” Carr said.

The results are just the latest sign of growing disparities in academic performance. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an exam given to students to gauge the nation’s academic performance, scores tumbled for fourth- and eighth-graders this year in reading. Eighth-graders lost ground in 30 states. Low-performing readers slipped even more than their higher-performing peers…

“Should we be worried about this?” said Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills at the OECD. “I do think so, because . . . our labor markets were a lot more tolerant of educational failure in the past than they are now. So I think students who do not make the grade face pretty grim prospects.”

In a few weeks, we’ll be releasing our updated Opportunity Washington Scorecard, continuing to emphasize the critical need for rigorous education standards coupled with constant performance improvements to prepare Washington students for success in a challenging economy.