Results from a new study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at the U.S. Department of Education has found the vast majority of states score above the international average in 8th grade math and science. Although U.S. eighth-graders compared relatively well to their peers in other countries in math, the comparison was even more favorable in science, where just three states scored below the international average. However, the average 8th-grader in most states has obtained a basic knowledge and understanding of both math and science and can demonstrate it in a variety of practical situations.
But the study also highlights the fact that there is a huge variation in student performance across states. While there are a number of states that compare more favorably to the highest performing countries in the world, there are other states whose performance matches the performance of developing countries. For students in all states to have a chance to compete in the ever growing global labor market they, at the very least, must possess basic math and science skills.
Here’s what the study found:
- Over two-thirds (36) of states’ average score were significantly above the international average of 500.
- Six states (West Virginia (492), Oklahoma (491), Tennessee (490), DC (481), Mississippi (476), and Alabama (466) scored significantly below the international average. These scores are similar to those of New Zealand (488), Kazakhstan (487), Sweden (484) and Armenia (467) among others.
- Massachusetts was the highest scoring U.S. state (561 points) and outperformed all but five of 47 countries as well.
- Massachusetts was outperformed by Korea (613), Singapore (611), Hong Kong (586), and Japan (570).
- Nearly a two-third of U.S. states performed as well as or better than the traditionally high performing country of Finland (514).
- Alabama was the only state whose average score (466) fell within the TIMSS Low benchmark (400-474), an indicator of whether a student possesses knowledge of whole numbers and decimals, operations, and basic graphs.
- On the other end of the spectrum, Massachusetts was the only state to score above the TIMSS High benchmark (550) which indicates that students can apply their understanding and knowledge in variety of relatively complex situations.
- The remaining 50 states’ average score fell within the Intermediate benchmark (475-549) which indicates a student can apply basic mathematical knowledge in a variety of situations.
- Nearly every state (47) performed above the international average of 500 while two states (Arizona and California) did not perform significantly different than the international average.
- Mississippi (486), Alabama (485) and DC (453) scored significantly below the international average. These scores are similar to those of Kazakhstan (490), Turkey (483) and Iran (474), among others.
- Massachusetts (567) and Vermont (561) were the highest scoring U.S. states and performed as well or better than every country except Singapore (590).
- Massachusetts and Vermont performed as well as Chinese Taipei (564), Korea (560), and Japan (558) and outperformed such countries as Finland (552), Hong Kong (535) and England (533).
- The District of Columbia was the only place where students’ average scores did feell within the TIMSS Low benchmark (400-474) which indicates whether a student has a grasp of elementary knowledge of life, physical, and earth sciences.
- On the other end of the spectrum, eight states (Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin) scored above the TIMSS High benchmark (550), which indicates whether students can apply their knowledge and understanding of the sciences to explain phenomena in everyday and abstract context.
- The remaining 43 states’ average score fell within in the Intermediate benchmark (475-549), indicating students have basic knowledge and understanding of practical situations in the sciences. — Jim Hull