Students In Asia Score Highest On Math, Science Tests

Fourth grade students in Hong Kong and eighth grade students in Taiwan” earned the top scores in math, “while Singapore dominated in science at both grade levels.

The New York Times (12/10, Dillon) reports, “American fourth and eighth grade students made solid achievement gains in math in recent years and in two states showed spectacular progress,” but “science performance was flat,” according to a survey released Tuesday by the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS. “Fourth grade students in Hong Kong and eighth grade students in Taiwan” earned the top scores in math, “while Singapore dominated in science at both grade levels.” According to the Times, “the latest TIMSS study, the world’s largest review of math and science achievement, involved testing a representative sample of students in each country in 2007, the first time the tests had been administered since 2003. … The results included fourth grade scores from 36 countries, and eighth grade scores from 48 countries.”

Similarly, the Washington Post (12/10, Glod) reports, “Results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), released today, show how fourth- and eighth-graders in the United States measure up to peers in dozens of countries. U.S. students showed gains in math at both grades.” Specifically, “the average score among fourth-graders has jumped 11 points since 1995, to 529.” Still, “students in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Russia, and England were among those posting a higher average. Hong Kong topped the list with an average score of 607.” Meanwhile, the “average science performance” for students in the U.S., “although still stronger than in many countries, has stagnated since 1995.”

In science, “USA fourth-graders scored 549, well above the international average of 500, but below a few Asian nations — Singapore, Taipei, Hong Kong and Japan,” adds USA Today (12/10, Toppo). “Eighth-graders scored 520, similarly above average but below a handful of other nations.”

According to the Associated Press (12/10, Quaid), “Kids in Massachusetts and Minnesota did even better than the U.S. overall. In fact, Massachusetts students did as well as some of their Asian peers.” The Boston Globe (12/9, Vaznis) explained that Massachusetts “performed strongest on the fourth-grade science exam, coming in second worldwide just behind Singapore and ahead of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan. By contrast, the United States as a whole placed eleventh with a score that researchers characterized as significantly lower than Massachusetts.” In math, the state’s eighth-grade “score rose 34 points to 547 from eight years ago, compared to a seven-point increase for the United States, which averaged 508 last year. In eighth-grade science, the state’s score rose 23 points to 556, compared to a 5-point gain for the United States, which scored 520 last year.”

The Christian Science Monitor (12/10, Paulson, Khadaroo) points out that most of the math and science gains in the U.S. “took place among the lowest-performing students, a similar trend to that seen in national report cards on education.” Some analysts say that could be a result “of the increased focus on bringing up America’s struggling students without as much attention to those at the top.”

The Wall Street Journal (12/10, Hechinger) the Chicago Tribune (12/10, Malone), and the Journal of New England Technology (12/9, Lynch) also covered the story. Canada’s CBC News (12/10) reports on Canadian students’ performances in math and science, the BBC News (12/10) reported on U.K. students’ performance, and the Jerusalem Post (12/10, Selig) covered Israel’s declining math and science rankings, as reported in TIMSS.

SOUCE: The Opening Bell, NJEA Publication

More below, from USA Today:

U.S. students’ math, science scores deliver mixed results

TIMSS scale average: 500
Average scores significantly higher than U.S.

Hong Kong – 607
Singapore – 599
Chinese Taipei – 576
Japan – 568
Kazakhstan – 549
Russian Federation – 544
England – 541
Latvia – 537
Average not measurably different from U.S.
Netherlands – 535
Lithuania – 530
United States – 529
Germany – 525
Denmark – 523
Average significantly lower than U.S. average score
Australia – 516
Hungary – 510
Italy – 507
Austria – 505
Sweden – 503
Slovenia – 502
Armenia – 500
Slovak Republic – 496
Scotland – 494
New Zealand – 492
Czech Republic – 486
Norway – 473
Ukraine – 469
Georgia – 438
Iran – 402
Algeria – 378
Colombia – 355
Morocco – 341
El Salvador – 330
Tunisia – 327
Kuwait – 316
Qatar – 296
Yemen – 224

Source: Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)
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By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

If there were a math-and-science Olympics for elementary and middle schoolers, USA students could hold their heads high — they’re consistently better than average. In math, it turns out, they’re improving substantially, even as a few powerhouse nations see their scores drop.
But at the end of the day, the USA never quite makes it to the medal podium, a dilemma that has educators and policymakers divided, with some saying factors outside school play a key role in both achievement and productivity in general.

For the first time since 2003, the results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, a battery of international math and science tests among dozens of nations, are out — and they paint a somewhat mixed picture of achievement: On the one hand, the USA ranks consistently above international averages in both subjects.

On the other hand, several nations consistently outscore our fourth- and eighth-graders, with a few countries turning in eye-popping performances.

And while our students’ math scores have risen, science scores have virtually stagnated since the mid-1990s — even as educators and policymakers have pushed for greater investments in science and engineering.

“It’s discouraging,” says Francis Eberle, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association. He says educators have known about the flat scores for years and there’s been no progress.

“Other countries are investing and we can see their progress,” he says. “Do we want to be average?”
The new scores, from 2007, looked at performance for 36 countries in fourth grade and 48 countries at eighth grade.

A few results:

•In math, USA fourth-graders scored 529, above the international average of 500 and on par with Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, among others — but below Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Russia and England.

•The fourth-grade math score is up 11 points from 2003, a statistically significant difference and the first time the scores have changed since 1995.

•A handful of other nations — among them England, Hong Kong, Slovenia and Latvia — have seen much bigger improvements in math, with score jumps as high as 57 points since 1995. The USA’s 11-point jump is on par with that of Singapore and Iran, but much better than several nations that saw their scores drop — in the Czech Republic, for instance, fourth-grade math scores fell 54 points.

•USA eighth-graders also scored above average in math, comparable to students in Hungary, England, Russia and the Czech Republic, among others, but below several Asian nations. Their scores are up 16 points from 1995.

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who chairs the House Education Committee, welcomes the “significant gains” in math, but says it’s “troubling that our students are still behind their international peers in both math and science — fields that are key to our nation’s economic vitality and competitiveness. It’s increasingly clear that building a world-class education system that provides students with a strong foundation in math and science must be part of any meaningful long-term economic recovery strategy.”

In science, the story is similar, if a bit less improved:

•USA fourth-graders scored 549, well above the international average of 500, but below a few Asian nations — Singapore, Taipei, Hong Kong and Japan. Eighth-graders scored 520, similarly above average but below a handful of other nations.

•USA science scores, unlike math scores, have remained flat for 12 years, while a few other nations have seen 50- to 60-point gains.

Others, though, have seen their scores plummet since 1995.

Brookings Institution researcher Tom Loveless says the new scores belie complaints that USA students are lagging behind the rest of the world in math.

“It’s just not true,” he says. “It hasn’t been true for a long time.”

The congressionally appointed National Math Panel recently called for sweeping changes in how schools teach math, pushing for a greater emphasis on algebra and higher-order problem solving. Loveless, a member of the panel, says the changes would go a long way toward improving our international ranking. “We’re making progress, but we’re several decades from being first in the world,” he says.


One Response to Students In Asia Score Highest On Math, Science Tests

  1. JayCKat says:

    And where is Malaysia? We should be on the board with Singapore… wait we probably are as Singaporeans. This just goes to show how Bolehland has let Malaysia down.

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