Education

‘A-Plus’ Countries Falter on International Math Study

By Sarah D. Sparks — March 20, 2013 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Ongoing overhauls of state mathematics standards are intended in part to prepare American students to compete with their international peers. Yet a new analysis of the most recent Trends in International Math and Science Study suggests that so-called “A-plus countries"— whose math achievement in 1995 prompted American educators to take a page from their standards in developing the Common Core State Standards in math—have not sustained that achievement in more recent exams, and that better examples of academic leaders might be found closer to home.

The analysis, “The Latest TIMSS and PIRLS Scores,” was released this week as part of an annual report on education by the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy, which also looked at 8th grade advanced math courses and ability grouping and tracking issues in reading and math.

Brookings senior fellow Tom Loveless studied recent TIMSS performance from 2003 to 2011 of six countries which had been tapped as educational leaders in math performance in 1995: Singapore, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Belgium, and the Czech Republic. The test is given every four years, with an average international score of 500, and an average U.S. score in 2011 of 541 in 4th grade and 509 in 8th grade, squarely in the middle of the pack.

Among the former A-plus countries, Loveless found a very mixed bag of recent achievement. Belgium stopped participating in 8th grade TIMSS math after a 13-point drop in average math scores in 2003, and the Czech Republic also dropped out after a jaw-dropping 42-point decline in 2007. The remaining countries took part in TIMSS in 8th grade in 2011, and all but Japan saw improvements in their average math scores.

However, only Korea’s 4th graders had greater math growth since 1995—32 points, from 581 to 613—than that of American 4th graders, whose average math score improved 23 points since 1995, to 541. American 8th graders also improved 17 points from 1995 to 2007, matching the growth of Hong Kong and surpassed only by that of Korea.

Moreover, in the same period, individual states have also shown dramatic growth in 4th grade math performance on TIMSS: Massachusetts 8th graders scored on average 561 in 2011, up 47 points since 1999. Massachusetts, Minnesota, and North Carolina all had double-digit growth in math and higher average scores in 2011 than the most recent performance of Belgium and the Czech Republic.

In an interview about the report, Loveless said the A-plus countries math curricula have been “held up as ideals” and domestic efforts such as the common core have been compared against those countries’ standards. Yet, “The fact that three of the A-plus counties had statistically significant declines, I think is interesting,” he said.

The tendency is for observers, when test scores are released, to zero on on the top performers, to ask what it is that the leading nations are doing, and then to urge the rest of the world to do those things," Loveless wrote in the report. "That response is understandable—but it is also potentially misleading."

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama
Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Gunman in 2018 Parkland School Massacre Pleads Guilty
A jury will decide whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
3 min read
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Gunman in Parkland School Massacre to Plead Guilty
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said.
4 min read
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)