It’s no secret that U.S. students are not up to par with their international peers. The most recent PISA exam testified to this with the United States placing 17th in reading, 26th in math, and 21st in science.

Unfortunately, these troubling scores seem to be following American students into adulthood. As a new study from the Educational Testing Service reports, U.S. adults age 16-65 score lower in literacy and numeracy than most developed nations. What’s more, the gap seems to be widening as the millennial generation steps onto the playing field. Such a case holds true regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or parental educational attainment.

As the report notes, “these data shed light on both the quantity of education our young adults have received and some evidence about the quality of our secondary and post-secondary educational institutions.”

Compared to other countries, one definitely has to question the quality of U.S. education, particularly in regards to the numeracy category. When broken down by educational attainment level, U.S. millennials with a high school degree or less scored roughly 30 points below the OECD average. This gap gradually decreased as U.S. millennials completed levels of higher education, but never exceeded the international average.

Such results should give us pause. If students with a high school education or less are so far behind their international peers, could we possibly be doing something wrong in our K-12 education system? Is it possible that we have made the education system easier for the millennial generation, and in the process, stunted their growth in terms of skill-sets?

If so, it’s time for us to step up the academic rigor of today’s education system. Our schools may have failed the millennial generation by not giving them the skills they need to succeed, but past failure doesn’t mean we have to continue on the same path with future generations.

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