U. S. Math Performance in Global Perspective How well does each state do at producing high-achieving students?

Type Report
Title U. S. Math Performance in Global Perspective How well does each state do at producing high-achieving students?
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2010
URL http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED513539.pdf
Maintaining our innovative edge in the world depends importantly on developing a
highly qualified cadre of scientists and engineers. To realize that objective requires a
system of schooling that produces students with advanced math and science skills.
To see how well the U.S. as a whole, each state, and certain urban districts do at
producing high-achieving math students, the percentage of U.S. public and private
school students in the high-school graduating Class of 2009 who were highly accomplished
in mathematics in each of the 50 states and in 10 urban districts is compared
to the percentages of similarly high achievers in 56 other countries.
Unfortunately, the percentage of students in the U.S. Class of 2009 who were
highly accomplished in math is well below that of most countries with which the U.S.
generally compares itself. No less than 30 of the 56 other countries that participated
in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) math test had a larger
percentage of students who scored at the international equivalent of the advanced
level on our National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests. While 6
percent of U.S. public and private school students rated as advanced in 8th-grade
mathematics, 28 percent of Taiwanese students did. (See Figure 1, p. 16, for these
results as well as for the relative rank internationally of each individual U.S. state.)
It is not only Taiwan that did much, much better than the U.S. At least 20 percent
of students in Hong Kong, Korea, and Finland were highly accomplished, and 12 other
countries had at least twice the percentage of highly accomplished students as the
U.S.: Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, the Czech
Republic, Japan, Canada, Macao, Australia, Germany, and Austria. The only members
of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) taking
part in PISA 2006 that produced a smaller percentage of advanced math students than
the U.S. were Spain, Italy, Israel, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Chile and Mexico. The
performance of the U.S. cannot be distinguished statistically from that of Russia.1
The percentage of students scoring at the advanced level varies considerably
among the 50 states, but none does well in international comparison. Massachusetts,
with more than 11 percent advanced, does the best, but the performance
of the Massachusetts Class of 2009 still trails that of 14 countries. Minnesota,
ranked second among the 50 states, comes in at the same level as France, Sweden,
Denmark, Iceland, Slovenia and Estonia. California students are roughly
comparable to those in Portugal, Italy, Israel and Turkey, and the lowest ranking
states—West Virginia, New Mexico, and Mississippi—have a smaller percentage
of high-performing students than do Serbia and Uruguay (although they do edge
out Romania, Brazil, and Kyrgyzstan).

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