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SNAPSHOT | Data Highlights

Summing Up Results From TIMSS, PISA

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Students in the United States are by and large treading water in the two largest international benchmarking tests in math, science, and reading, which both released 2015 results in recent weeks.

U.S. 15-year-olds did not perform significantly differently in science or reading on the Program for International Student Assessment in 2015 compared with their showing in previous years, and their math performance significantly declined since 2012 and 2009, the last two times PISA was given. That put the United States roughly in the middle of education systems in reading and science on PISA, but below average in math.

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What the International Test Gap Looks Like in the Classroom

In the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the nation’s 4th graders scored in the top quarter of all participating countries in those two subjects, though they showed no improvement since 2011, when TIMSS was last held. U.S. 8th graders likewise performed in the top quarter of countries in math and science; they had significantly improved in math but not in science since 2011. TIMSS, run by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, tracks math and science skills in 4th and 8th grades in 55 countries and education systems. PISA, run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, measures critical-thinking and problem-solving skills in math, science, and reading of 15-year-olds in 77 countries and education systems.

The United States also took part in TIMSS Advanced in 2015, for the first time in 20 years. That test gauges 18-year-olds in nine countries and education systems on the most challenging math and science, including calculus and physics. U.S. students showed no improvement in advanced math or science since 1995. They performed above average among the participating countries in math, but below average in physics.

Singapore led the world across all subjects and grade levels in both TIMSS and PISA. Its students did not take part in TIMSS Advanced.


U.S. Teenagers Stall on International Math Tests

Math results were mixed for American students on two major global benchmarking tests released in recent weeks. While 8th graders posted their highest average score ever on TIMSS, 15-year-olds declined on PISA.




Science Gender Gaps Differ for Top Students

Gender gaps have been closing among students taking part in PISA for science. While boys still strongly outperform girls among top students, the reverse is often true among low performers.




Struggling Students Falter on TIMSS

Overall, U.S. 8th graders have significantly improved in the past 20 years on TIMSS math, but the gaps between high- and low-performing students have widened over time.





Vol. 36, Issue 15, Page 8

Published in Print: December 14, 2016, as Snapshot: TIMSS, PISA Results Highlight Global Math and Science Gaps
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