A Closer Look At The International Test Results

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East Asian countries continued their dominance in international test results released today, writes Sarah Butrymowicz in the Hechinger Report:

“The United States scored better than the majority of countries in all subjects, but failed to crack the top 10 in most subjects. Singapore was at or near the top of the pack in all the tests, while Finland slipped slightly from its performance on a different group of assessments given in 2010.

The U.S ranked sixth in reading among fourth graders, a significant gain over 14th in 2006. Math scores were less impressive, with the U.S. only in the top 15 among fourth graders and among the top 24 in eighth grade. The U.S. made the top 10 in fourth-grade science, but was only among the top 23 in eighth grade.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan described the results as ‘encouraging news about our students’ progress and some sobering cautionary notes.’

‘Learning gains in fourth grade are not being sustained in eight grade—where mathematics and science achievement failed to measurably improve,’ he said in a statement. ‘A number of nations are out-educating us today in STEM disciplines—and if we as a nation don’t turn around, those nations will soon be out-competing us in a knowledge-based, global economy.’

Jim Hull, a senior policy analyst at the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education, was less alarmist. ‘We’ve still made some of the greater gains in the world since 1999,’ he said. ‘It’s something to keep an eye on.'” (Read more here.)

Interesting to note that our fourth graders are improving while our eighth graders are not; also interesting that students in some states, but not others, are doing very well, as reported in this article in the Christian Science Monitor:

Eight education systems (including the state of North Carolina) scored better than the US in fourth-grade math, while by eighth grade, 11 outscored the US (including Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Indiana) . . . At the eighth-grade level, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Colorado scored above the US average in science. In eighth-grade science, only Singapore had a higher percentage of students reaching the ‘advanced’ benchmark than the state of Massachusetts.” (Read more here.)

I hope we don’t just react to these results—either by celebrating or by wringing our hands—but actually use them to figure out what’s working and how to extend those effective practices to schools all over the country.


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