Researchers at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard analyzed data from the National Assessment for Educational Progress for the class of 2011. They found the percentage of students achieving proficiency in math varied by state with some far above the national average of 32 percent while others were below.
Massachusetts, with 58 percent demonstrating proficiency, was at the top, equal to South Korea and two percentage points above Finland. California at 24 percent was below 36 countries about equal to Russia and Greece.
Ethnic and racial groups also varied with 50 percent of Asians and Pacific Islanders testing as proficient, followed by 42 percent of whites, 16 percent of Indians, 15 percent of Hispanics and 11 percent of blacks.
"Graduates in each and every state compete for jobs with graduates from all over the world," said Eric Hanushek of Stanford University, one of the authors of the study. "Since student performance on international tests ... is closely related to long-term economic productivity growth, increasing U.S. students' proficiency levels to those attained in Canada would increase our economic growth rate by some 50 percent."
ACT Inc., which produces the ACT college admissions test, released its own report on this year's results. The organization said 25 percent of the students who took the test met or surpassed its benchmarks for college and career readiness, up from 24 percent last year.