U.S. Lags in International Education Assessments

Lauren Williams's picture
Thursday, December 13, 2012

The results for international assessments on math, science, and reading are in: Students from East Asian countries, along with a select group of European countries, outperformed those in the United States, according to the results for the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), released Dec. 11.

Out of 57 countries and education systems worldwide participating in TIMSS, eight significantly surpassed the U.S. in grade 4 math, and 11 did so for grade 8 math. The U.S. was outperformed by similar numbers in science, with six systems surpassing the U.S. in grade 4, and 12 doing so for grade 8, according to the TIMSS results.

Five nations out of 53 performed better than the U.S. in reading, the PIRLS found. Nations that were top performers across all subjects include Chinese Taipei (commonly known as Taiwan), Finland, Hong Kong, Korea, and Singapore.

“These results are important, but if we’re going to compare the scores, we also have to compare the policies. I have travelled to Singapore, and other high performing nations, and have a good grasp of what’s working well there,” says Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. “The truth is that we need to put students—not political motivation—at the center of reform. That means reducing our reliance on one-size-fits-all standardized tests; focusing more on preparing, mentoring and supporting new teachers; requiring higher standards for those entering the profession and increasing collaboration between districts and teachers unions.”

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