An international achievement report ranks American millennials—those between the ages of sixteen and thirty-four—far behind their European and Asian counterparts when it comes to essential skills like numeracy and proficient literacy.

The data in the report was gathered by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), which has also found that since 2000, American 15 year-olds tend to score below average in math and science compared with their peers in other countries.

Supporters of the study point toward the inability of school reforms to change larger problems of inequality and access to eduction which plague the American system. 

"'You’ve seen tons of school-reform efforts in the last 20 years that don’t seem to be able to make a dent. Well, maybe we need to reframe the problem in a larger way,' Madeline Goodman, a co-author of the report, said in a phone interview. 'It’s a question of putting the problem of skills in a larger context of inequality and opportunity in America today.'"

Critics respond by saying that the test does not actually measure for specific skills called for by the economy, and that these skills are a better measure of a generation's preparedness to succeed. For example, the first PIAAC released in 1964 ranked the US eleven out of twelve in math assessment even though this period experienced robust economic growth. 

Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, argues that Millennials have been sheltered from the realities of an increasingly competitive global marketplace:

"I think the millennials are actually amazingly unprepared for today’s world of power.  That is because the millenials have been mostly raised in a world in which competition... they haven’t faced very much. So as one of my former students said to me, 'I quit the varsity swimming team because if there were eight people in the race eight people got ribbons.'"


Read more at the Atlantic