2009 Spotlight

U.S. Performance Across International Assessments of Student Achievement

Synthesis of science results

Both Japan and Chinese Taipei outperformed the United States in science at grade 4 each time they participated in TIMSS (see supplemental table A-6) 41. In addition, between 1995 and 2007, U.S. 4th-graders fell behind their peers in Hong Kong and Singapore, where science scores improved while U.S. scores did not. In 1995, U.S. 4th-graders outperformed their peers in Hong Kong and Singapore; in 2007, 4th-graders in Hong Kong and Singapore outperformed their U.S. peers.

At grade 8, seven countries consistently outperformed the United States in science each time they participated in TIMSS: Chinese Taipei, the Czech Republic, England, Hungary, Japan, Korea, and Singapore (see supplemental table A-7). In addition, U.S. 8th-graders fell behind their peers in the Russian Federation. However, U.S. 8th-graders' standing improved relative to their peers in Norway, Scotland, and Sweden. Declines in scores in Sweden moved their 8th-graders from scoring higher than the United States in 1995 to scoring below the United States in 2007. In Norway and Scotland, 8th-graders moved from being not measurably different from their U.S. peers in 1995 to scoring below their U.S. peers in 2007.

Although direct comparisons of PISA 2006 science scores with those from 2000 and 2003 are not possible, one can compare the relative standing of the United States with other participating countries. In 2000, 15-year-olds in 8 countries (all OECD countries) outperformed their U.S. peers in terms of average scores: Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom (see supplemental table A-8). In 2006 these same 8 countries again outperformed the United States along with 8 additional countries that did not measurably differ from the United States in 2000 (Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland—all members of the OECD—and one non-OECD country, Liechtenstein). 42

41 Japan participated in TIMSS in all three rounds (1995, 2003, and 2007) while Chinese Taipei participated in TIMSS only in 2003 and 2007.
42 The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Estonia, Slovenia, and Macao also outperformed the United States in 2006, but they did not participate in PISA 2000.