U.S. students lag Asians in math, science, reading

Despite some gains, U.S. students continue to trail Asian students in math, science and reading, according to two international tests, the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, known as PIRLS, and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, referred to as TIMSS.

U.S. fourth-graders’ math and reading scores improved since the last time students took the tests several years ago, while eighth-graders remained stable in math and science. Americans outperformed the international average in all three subjects but remained far behind students in such places as Singapore and Hong Kong, especially in math and science.

In fourth-grade math, for example, students in Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Northern Ireland and the Flemish region of Belgium outperformed U.S. students.

. . . In eighth-grade science, children in Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Finland, Slovenia, Russia and Hong Kong beat U.S. students.

Some U.S. states participated. Florida, the only state that volunteered to take the fourth-grade reading exam, did very well, virtually tying Hong Kong, the top scorer. Third graders must pass Florida’s state exam to move into fourth grade.

Massachusetts’ eighth graders excelled in science and math. The state’s students placed fifth in math, behind  Singapore. South Korea, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong and Japan, and second in science, below Singapore.

U.S. students do well in the early grades, but don’t improve as much over time as students in other high-scoring countries, notes Joy Resmovits in the Huffington Post.

“When we start looking at our older students, we see less improvement over time,” said Jack Buckley, who leads the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics.

The U.S. ranked sixth in fourth-grade reading, seventh in fourth-grade science and ninth in fourth-grade math; that dropped to 13th in eighth-grade science and 12th in eighth-grade math. (Reading wasn’t measured in eighth grade.)

“These new international comparisons underscore the urgency of accelerating achievement in secondary school and the need to close large and persistent achievement gaps,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “Learning gains in fourth grade are not being sustained in eighth grade, where mathematics and science achievement failed to measurably improve.”

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  1. Florida resident says:

    For better or for worse, my kids were beyond 4-th grade, when we moved to Florida.
    Anyhow, bravo to Floridians !
    Go Florida !
    Those blog-posts discusses intricacies of the studies cited above by our effervescent Joanne Jacobs (whose heroic job of sustaining “Linking and Thinking …” is very much appreciated):

  2. A quote ““When we start looking at our older students, we see less improvement over time,” said Jack Buckley, who leads the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics.”…

    The studies have shown that elementary school students tend to be on par with their peers worldwide, they lose some ground in middle school, and lose a LOT of ground in high school. (This fact is documented by Charles Sykes in “Dumbing down our kids”).


  3. I am a technology specialist at a 4th-8th grade school. We acquired SMART boards as a result of the federal EETT grant. One was purchased for my 6th grade math classroom at the time. I then began training teachers how to use it. As teachers became interested in the board, our school purchased more. Other staff became comfortable with the new technology and then began training other staff. We now have a SMARTboard in every classroom and all of our teachers use them on a daily basis. Our train the trainer method was quite successful. Our teachers are quite comfortable with the technology and I now work with them in their classrooms to model lessons and assist them in the integration of technology in their curriculum.