For nearly two decades researchers have attempted to link results from the domestic National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to the results from the international assessment Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), to give states an opportunity to compare their math and science achievement levels to other countries across the world. Yesterday, researchers at the National Center for Education Statistics released the latest attempt to make such a link. This report provides not only the most current but also the most accurate measures of how each state’s performance would stack up internationally. As Jim stated in his summary yesterday, the results give many states a reason to pat themselves on the back.
A deeper look into the results shows that some states posted some of the world’s best scores. In math, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont, New Jersey and New Hampshire scored higher than all but 5 of 47 countries. Science scores were similarly impressive; 9 of the 14 top scorers were U.S. states, with Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire finishing in 2nd, 4th and 5th place respectively.
While these performances are certainly worth celebrating, other data points from the study warrant serious concern. Of the 36 states that scored above the international average in math, most of them, according to an EdWeek article, scored at the Intermediate proficiency level (There are 4 levels total: Advanced, High, Intermediate, and Low). In other words, the average 8th grade student in most states is not at the more advanced levels that Korea, Singapore, Japan and other countries are. If U.S. students hope to compete in a global environment, scoring above the average isn’t enough when other countries continue to achieve exemplary marks.
The data also show that many states contain vast disparities between high and low performers. Texas, for example, scored above the international average in math, but 30% of its 8th graders scored at the Low level or worse. And as a country, the rates aren’t much better; 32% of U.S. 8th graders performed at the Low level or lower and 69% were scored at the Intermediate level or below. To make matters worse, the aforementioned Edweek article states these figures haven’t changed much since 2007.
Moving forward, educators in most states should celebrate their ability to beat international averages while recognizing that above mediocre isn’t enough. Globalization requires more of our students reach the High and Advanced levels on international exams. –Jordan Belton