U.S. Elementary Students Trail in Math and Science on World Academic Stage

Thursday, December 13, 2012
(AP Photo)

The United States received more disappointing news from the latest tests scores that compare how well American students are doing compared to their foreign counterparts.


When it comes to math and science, fourth- and eighth-grade students in the United States are behind students in several East Asian countries and some European nations.


Leading the way in fourth-grade math and science were South Korea and Singapore. Singapore also had the top-performing students in eighth-grade science, along with Taiwan.


The United States?


With 54 nations ranked, American fourth-graders ranked 11th in math and 7th in science, while eighth-graders were 9th in math and 10th in science.


Also, only 7% of US students reached the advanced level in eighth-grade math, compared to 48% of eighth graders in Singapore and 47% of eighth graders in South Korea.


The results come from tests designed by the International Study Center at Boston College, which collaborated with academic researchers and government education officials in the participating countries. Demographically representative students from around the world were randomly selected to take the tests. 


“Clearly, we have some room to improve, particularly at the number of advanced students we have compared to the world,” Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education, which administers and analyzes the results of the tests in the United States, told The New York Times.


There was some goods news from the test results: American fourth graders ranked sixth in the world in reading. Hong Kong and Russia had the highest average test scores in fourth-grade reading.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

U.S. Students Still Lag Globally in Math and Science, Tests Show (by Motoko Rich, New York Times)

Here’s Why Other Countries Beat the US in Reading and Math (by Olga Khazan, Washington Post)

Highlights from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2011(National Center for Education Statistics)

Highlights from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study 2011 (National Center for Education Statistics)

Baton Rouge Teacher Sues for the Right to Give Students “F”s (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Cheating on Standardized Tests Goes Unpunished…if the Cheaters are School Officials (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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