Results from a study linking performance of eighth graders, state-by-state, on the National Assessment of Educational Progress with the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) are out today noting, again, that there remains disparity among the states in science and math learning. There is certainly something to celebrate – such as the fact that eighth graders in most states are above the international average in math and science. But before we get out our celebratory party hats and drums, we need to step back and take a harder look at what the results are telling us.
The good news is that some states are figuring out how to improve their global competitiveness in math and science. Hooray! Other states, however, continue to lag behind. Boo! According to Education Week:
The federal report, released today, showcases the academic prowess of high-achieving states, such as Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Vermont, which outperformed all but five of 47 countries, provinces, and jurisdictions abroad in mathematics. The top performers in that subject were South Korea, Singapore, and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan).
At the same time, the study also highlights some states' scholastic weaknesses. Alabama, Mississippi, and the District of Columbia, for instance, were the lowest-performing domestically in math. Countries such as Italy, Lithuania, and Hungary outperformed those U.S. systems in the subject.
Good news is also tinged with bad: despite Massachusetts’ high standing, for example, only about 1 in 5 students in the state rank among those most advanced worldwide.
So, now what? It’s time to shine a light on what’s being done right now to help elevate states that are struggling and keep those that are above average on the path to even greater success. High expectations and the means for all students to reach those expectations are key. Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards set a high bar for students and provide the opportunity for states to walk the talk on rigor. CTEq will continue to trumpet its support for this state-led effort of broad, clear internationally-benchmarked statements of the knowledge and skills that students should master at every grade level.
If the U.S. is going to continue to be an economic and innovation leader, we’ve got to address shortfalls across the states and push beyond “business as usual” to get all our students achieving at their greatest potential – and meeting both national and international benchmarks. A measure of restrained celebration is good, but we’ve got far to go before we can schedule the parade.