FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

New Study on Student Performance in Math and Science

Aline D. McNaull
Number 153 - November 4, 2013  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is a subject of discussion among many policy makers on and off Capitol Hill.  STEM education is seen as being directly associated with U.S. competitiveness and is closely tied to employment trends.  While many studies show student performances, the results of a recent study paint a picture of where U.S. students place on an international scale.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education recently published the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an assessment program for elementary and secondary students.  The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) recently published Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), a comparative study of students in the United States and in more than 50 other countries.  Together, these organizations released the NAEP-TIMMS Linking Study for use by U.S. states to compare the performance of their students with that of students from other countries.

Mathematics results from the NAEP-TIMMS report include that Massachusetts had the highest percentage of students scoring at the Advanced level and at or about the High level.  Internationally, in mathematics Chinese Taipei had the highest percentage of students who achieved an Advanced level score while Singapore had the highest percentage of students at or above the High level.   Nineteen percent of students in Massachusetts performed at the Advanced level while 49 percent of students from Chinese Taipei performed at the Advanced level.  In Massachusetts, 57 percent of students performed at or above the High level while that number was 78 percent for the country of Singapore. 

In mathematics, the average score for U.S. public school students in 36 states was higher than the average of students in more than 50 countries in the TIMSS study.  Mathematics scores ranged from 466 for Alabama to 561 for Massachusetts.  Fourty-nine U.S. states, the Department of Defense schools, and the District of Columbia reached or surpassed the Intermediate benchmark but only Massachusetts reached the High benchmark.  Internationally, five education systems, Chinese Taipei-CHN, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore reached the High benchmark. 

In science, 47 U.S. states performed higher than the average of the TIMMS study.  Science scores ranged from 453 for the District of Columbia to 567 for Massachusetts.  Eight states - Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin - reached the High benchmark while 50 states and the Department of Defense schools performed at least at the Intermediate benchmark.  Internationally, five education systems, Chinese Taipei-CHN, Finland, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore reached the High benchmark. 

In science, Massachusetts and Vermont performed higher than 43 educational systems in more than 50 countries and Singapore scored higher than all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Department of Defense schools.  Twenty-four percent of Massachusetts students performed at the Advanced level while 40 percent of students in Singapore performed at the Advanced level.  Sixty-One percent of Massachusetts students performed at or above the High level while 69 percent of students in Singapore performed at or above the High level.

Aline D. McNaull
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
amcnaull@aip.org
301-209-3094