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International comparisons of achievement

Question:
How does the achievement of American students compare to that of students in other countries?

Response:
The United States participates in several international assessments that allow for cross-national comparisons of subject matter results, including the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). TIMSS assesses mathematics and science knowledge and skills at grades 4 and 8, and PIRLS assesses reading literacy at grade 4.

In 2011, there were 57 education systems that had TIMSS mathematics and science data at grade 4 and 56 education systems that had these data at grade 8. Education systems include countries (complete, independent, and political entities) and other benchmarking education systems (portions of a country, nation, kingdom, or emirate, or other non-national entities). In addition to participating in the U.S. national sample, several U.S. states participated individually and are included as education systems.

At grade 4, the U.S. average mathematics score (541) in 2011 was higher than the TIMSS scale average (500). The United States was among the top 15 education systems in mathematics (8 education systems had higher average scores, and 6 had scores that were not measurably different), and the United States scored higher, on average, than 42 education systems. Seven education systems with average mathematics scores above the U.S. score were Belgium (Flemish)-BEL, Chinese Taipei-CHN, Hong Kong-CHN, Japan, Northern Ireland-GBR, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore. Among the U.S. states that participated at grade 4, both North Carolina-USA and Florida-USA had average mathematics scores above the TIMSS scale average. North Carolina-USA’s score was higher than the U.S. national average; however, Florida-USA’s score was not measurably different from the U.S. national average in mathematics.

At grade 4, the U.S. average science score (544) was higher than the TIMSS scale average of 500. The United States was among the top 10 education systems in science (6 education systems had higher average science scores, and 3 had scores that were not measurably different). The United States also scored higher, on average, than 47 education systems in 2011. The six education systems with average science scores above the U.S. score were Chinese Taipei-CHN, Finland, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and Singapore. Of the participating education systems within the United States, both Florida-USA and North Carolina-USA scored above the TIMSS scale average, but their science scores were not measurably different from the U.S. national average.

At grade 8, the U.S. average mathematics score (509) was higher than the TIMSS scale average of 500. The United States was among the top 24 education systems in mathematics in 2011 (11 education systems had higher average scores, and 12 had scores that were not measurably different). In addition, the United States scored higher, on average, than 32 education systems. The 11 education systems with average mathematics scores above the U.S. score were Chinese Taipei-CHN, Hong Kong-CHN, Japan, Quebec-CAN, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Singapore, and, within the United States, Indiana-USA, Massachusetts-USA, Minnesota-USA, and North Carolina-USA.

At grade 8, the U.S. average science score (525) was higher than the TIMSS scale average of 500. The United States was among the top 23 education systems in science in 2011 (12 education systems had higher average scores, and 10 had scores that were not measurably different). The United States scored higher, on average, than 33 education systems. The 12 education systems with average science scores above the U.S. score were Alberta-CAN, Chinese Taipei-CHN, Finland, Hong Kong-CHN, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Slovenia, and, within the United States, Colorado-USA, Massachusetts-USA, and Minnesota-USA.

In 2011, there were 53 education systems that had PIRLS reading literacy data at grade 4. These 53 education systems included both countries and other benchmarking education systems. In addition to participating in the U.S. national sample, Florida-USA participated individually and was included as an education system. In 2011, the U.S. average 4th-grade reading literacy score (556) was higher than the PIRLS scale average (500). The United States was among the top 13 education systems in reading literacy (5 education systems had higher average scores, and 7 had scores that were not measurably different). The United States scored higher, on average, than 40 education systems.

The five education systems with average reading scores above the U.S. score were Finland, Hong Kong-CHN, the Russian Federation, Singapore, and, within the United States, Florida-USA.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). The Condition of Education 2013 (NCES 2013-037), International Assessments.

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education