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2009 Spotlight

U.S. Performance Across International Assessments of Student Achievement

How Much Does Performance Within the United States Vary by School Poverty?

As a measure of school poverty, TIMSS asked principals at public schools to report the percentage of students at the school eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunch through the National School Lunch Program. This is a federally assisted meal program that provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to eligible children each school day. TIMSS compares mathematics and science achievement results of students from schools with various poverty levels with the TIMSS scale average and the U.S. national average.

In both mathematics and science, the average score of U.S. 4th-graders in the highest poverty public schools (at least 75 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) in 2007 (479 in mathematics and 477 in science) was lower than the TIMSS scale average (500); the average scores of 4th-graders in each of the other categories of school poverty were higher than the TIMSS scale average (data not shown). The average score of U.S. 4th-graders in the lowest poverty public schools (less than 10 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) in 2007 (583 in mathematics and 590 in science) was also higher than the U.S. national average (529 in mathematics and 539 in science).


At 8th grade for both mathematics and science, the average score of U.S. students in the highest poverty public schools in 2007 (465 in mathematics and 466 in science) was lower, on average, than the TIMSS scale average (500) (data not shown). On the other hand, U.S. 8th-graders attending public schools with fewer than 50 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch scored higher than the TIMSS scale average. The average score of U.S. 8th-graders in the lowest poverty public schools in 2007 (557 in mathematics and 572 in science) was also higher than the U.S. national average (508 in mathematics and 520 in science).

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