U.S. is average on international tests

On two international tests, U.S. students scored in the middle of the pack in reading, math and science, concludes an Education Department analysis. Curriculum Matters reports:

On the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2007, both 4th and 8th graders scored above the scale average in math, and scores for U.S. students increased since 1995. Fourth graders in eight of the 35 other countries taking the test scored higher on average than 4th graders in the United States. Eighth graders in five of the 47 other participating countries performed better than U.S. students.

In both grades, top scorers came from Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan.

On the Program for International Student Assessment 2006, given to 15-year-olds, U.S. students were below the average scale score in math. That put U.S. students in the bottom quarter of performance for participating countries. They’ve been in that spot since 2003.

In science, TIMSS 2007 showed above-average scores for U.S. 4th and 8th graders scored above the average scale score in science, while U.S. 15-year-olds scored below the average on PISA 2006. Again Asian students led the world.

U.S. students were above average, but nothing special, in reading, reports the Washington Examiner.

Russia, Hong Kong, Singapore and parts of Canada lead the world in reading at the elementary level, while Korean students earned top marks at the high school level, according to the report.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan used the results to call for national standards.

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Comments

  1. Mark Roulo says:

    Fourth graders in eight of the 35 other countries taking the test scored higher on average than 4th graders in the United States. Eighth graders in five of the 47 other participating countries performed better than U.S. students.

    This puts the US 4th graders tied for 9th (out of 35), and thus probably in the top 1/3rd.

    The US 8th graders seem tied for 6th (out of 47), and so probably in the top 20%.

    I wouldn’t describe this as “average.”

    But … if this *IS* average, then the mirror scores should be described as average, too. So, the next time the US 4th graders are outside the bottom 1/3, this is “average” and the next time the US 8th graders are outside the bottom 20% this should be average.

    It won’t be reported that way, though :-(

    And not being consistent is both unfair and inaccurate.

    -Mark Roulo

  2. Margo/Mom says:

    Mark:

    Rank ordering is far less important than relationship to the mean. The US tends to be at or below the mean scores on international tests, as a rule. Also as a general rule, the countries at the top tend to outscore us with both their highest and lowest scorers–and the gap from top to bottom tends to be narrower.

    The typical denial is that they don’t test, or educate everyone, however this is really no longer the case. Many systems still differentiate at high school (as we do, when you consider not only career-tech vs college prep options, but also the wide variance in course patterns and content). This is why PISA is administered to 15 year olds–found to be the age at which content is widely differentiated.