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“Sadly, The Same Old Story”

The Washington Post reported on Oct. 24 that 50 percent of eighth-graders performed better than the international average in math and science, according to a comparison between standardized test results. The study analyzed the 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) scores of American students and those of international students on Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS).

In math, American students placed behind their counterparts in South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. Public school students in 36 states scored higher than average in math and students in 47 states scored higher than average in science. However, it’s important to note NAEP data was taken from all but 9 states.

The first of its kind, the NAEP-TIMSS Linking Study combined data from NAEP to TIMMS — a test given globally to over 46 countries — intended to measure American student achievement against that of the world.

“Given the importance of science in driving innovation and economic growth, it is troubling that more U.S. students are not scoring at advanced levels,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said of the comparison. “The proportion of eighth-graders who are advanced in science in the U.S. is about the same as in Hungary, New Zealand and Turkey.”

This study comes on the heels of the release of SAT test scores that unsurprisingly revealed little improvement from the previous year.

Year after year, tired concerns and warnings come out after American students put up less than stellar test scores whether in comparison with students in other US states or other countries. We hear the same lamentation that the United States will soon experience a decline in competitiveness and innovation, if it isn’t experiencing it already.

For innovation to occur in the economy and workforce, it first has to manifest in policy, and how we provide quality education in the classrooms, school board meetings and statehouses.

Duncan rightly takes a disappointing tone, but it shouldn’t stop there. The ongoing disappointment in lagging test scores must translate into a clarion call to create quality educational options, and implement meaningful reforms that will effectively shake up stagnant educational systems.

Only then will we start to see a marked improvement in student achievement and reduce our status of being a nation at risk.