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CHANCE FAVORS THE PREPARED MIND: Report Finds that Students in the Highest-Achieving States Score As Well As Counterparts in Most Foreign Countries in Math and Science, but Trail Highest-Achieving Foreign Countries

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"If you think of states and nations as in a race to prepare the future generation of workers, scholars, and citizens to be competent and competitive in a technologically complex world, then the states are in the middle of the pack," said Dr. Gary Phillips

A new report from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) finds that eighth graders in most states perform as well as or better than their counterparts in most foreign countries in math and science. The bad news is that eighth graders in the highest-achieving states (Massachusetts, Minnesota, and North Dakota, among others) fall significantly below those in the highest-achieving countries (including Singapore, Hong Kong, and Korea). The report, Chance Favors the Prepared Mind: Mathematics and Science Indicators for Comparing States and Nations, uses state eighth-grade data from the 2005 and 2007 National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) to project a state’s performance onto the scale of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). By doing so, the performances of each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia can be compared to the forty-six countries that participate in the TIMSS.

“If you think of states and nations as in a race to prepare the future generation of workers, scholars, and citizens to be competent and competitive in a technologically complex world, then the states are in the middle of the pack,” said Dr. Gary Phillips, a chief scientist at AIR and author of the report.

According to the report, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Japan generally outperform the United States in math and science. In addition, Massachusetts, the highest-scoring state in math, also falls behind these five Asian countries in math-although it outperforms the other forty-one countries included in the report. In science, North Dakota is the highest-ranking state, finishing ahead of Japan, but behind the four other Asian countries. The highest-performing countries and states in math and science are shown in the table below.

Country/State Math Score Country/State Science Score
Singapore 73 Singapore 55
Hong Kong 66 Chinese Taipei 52
Korea 65 Korea 45
Chinese
Taipei
61 Hong Kong 44
Japan 57 North Dakota 43
Massachusetts 51 Japan 42
Minnesota 43 Montana 42
North Dakota 41 Estonia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Vermont 41
Vermont 41    
Kansas, New Jersey, Belgium 40    

 

The report finds that the United States’ average performance in math and science is generally comparable to other English-speaking nations and to European nations and significantly better than many African and Middle Eastern countries. However, several states (Mississippi, New Mexico, and Alabama, among others) and the District of Columbia have poor performance levels that fall closer to those of African and Middle Eastern countries.

“More than a century ago, Louis Pasteur revealed the secret to invention and innovation when he said ‘chance favors the prepared mind’,” Phillips said. “The take away message from this report is that the United States is losing the race to prepare the minds of the future generation.”

The complete report is available at http://www.air.org/news/pr/8thGrader.aspx.

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