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TRENDS IN INTERNATIONAL MATH AND SCIENCE SCORES: U.S. Eighth Graders Ranked in Top Ten on International Math and Science Tests

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“State and local policy matter and can have a powerful influence in advancing or slowing educational progress. These new assessments put to rest the myth that America’s schools cannot be among the world’s top-performing school systems. In fact, eighth graders in Massachusetts performed below only one country in the world in science, Singapore.”

American eighth-grade students ranked ninth and tenth (out of thirty-eight) in math and science, respectively, compared to students in other countries on the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), while fourth graders were eleventh and seventh (out of forty-five). Released in December 2012, the results from the TIMSS suggest the degree to which students have learned mathematics and science concepts and skills likely to have been taught in school.

The average math score among American eighth graders was 509, an increase of 1 point since the last assessment in 2007, and higher than the international average (500). The Republic of Korea posted the highest average score (613), followed by Singapore (611), and Chinese Taipei (609). In science, American eighth graders posted an average score of 525, an increase of 5 points since 2007, and higher than the international average (500). Singapore had the highest average score (590), followed by Chinese Taipei (564), and the Republic of Korea (560). The countries with the highest average scores in eighth-grade math and eighth-grade science appear in the table below.

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When broken down by race and ethnicity, the TIMSS reveals large achievement gaps between student subgroups. Among eighth graders, Asian students posted the highest average score in math (568), followed by white (530), multiracial (513), Hispanic (485), and black students (465). In science, Asian eighth graders again ranked first (556), followed by white (553), multiracial (534), Hispanic (493), and black students (470).

A number of U.S. states participated in the test as well. In eighth-grade math, Massachusetts (561), Minnesota (545), North Carolina (537), Indiana (522), Colorado (518), Connecticut (518), and Florida (513) all posted average scores higher than the international average (500), while California (493) and Alabama (466) posted scores below it. The same was true in eighth-grade science: Massachusetts (567), Minnesota (553), Colorado (542), Indiana (533), Connecticut (532), North Carolina (532), and Florida (530) posted scores higher than the international average (500), while California (499) and Alabama (485) posted scores below it.

“It is rewarding to see that students in highly-diverse states like Florida, Massachusetts, and North Carolina excelled internationally in a number of subject areas, showing that demography is not destiny in our schools,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “State and local policy matter and can have a powerful influence in advancing or slowing educational progress. These new assessments put to rest the myth that America’s schools cannot be among the world’s top-performing school systems. In fact, eighth graders in Massachusetts performed below only one country in the world in science, Singapore.”

The complete results are available at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2013009.

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