Massachusetts Performs Well On TIMSS

December 10, 2008

Every 4 years the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) measures the performance of 4th and 8th graders in science and math in countries around the world. This year, in addition to the United States and dozens of other countries, Minnesota and Massachusetts participated as separate entities. The results were promising:

“Massachusetts students significantly outperformed their peers nationwide on a prestigious math and science exam, putting the state on an elite international tier, according to results released yesterday.

Massachusetts performed best on the Grade 4 science exam, coming in second just behind Singapore and ahead of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan. By contrast, the United States as a whole placed 11th with a score that researchers characterized as significantly lower than that of Massachusetts.

The state – long recognized as a national leader in overhaul efforts – showed remarkable gains in its scores, greatly outpacing the incremental improvements nationwide.

In eighth-grade math, the state’s score rose 34 points to 547 from eight years ago, compared with a 7-point increase for the United States, which averaged 508 last year. In eighth-grade science, the state’s score rose 23 points to 556, compared with a 5-point gain for the United States, which scored 520 last year. The top possible score on each exam was 800.”


“In eighth-grade science, for instance, Massachusetts students, on average, scored higher than or equal to students in all countries but Singapore and Taiwan.”

As for the United States as a whole, out of the 36 countries tested at the 4th grade level:

“In the fourth-grade math survey, scores in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Kazakhstan, Russia, England and Latvia were higher than in the United States.

Average scores were equal to the United States in the Netherlands, Lithuania, Germany and Denmark. Scores in 23 other countries were significantly lower.”

Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, ok. But Russia, Kazakhstan, and Lativa? And tied with Lithuania?

This all bodes well for American math and science education (especially in Massachusetts), but even though this is a highly respected test. We at Moxie’s World are a bit suspicious of standardized testing. It is true that standardized tests tend to work better in mathematics (and to a lesser extent in the sciences) than in other fields of study, but a careful examination of the test itself would be necessary to judge the significance of these results. At any rate, it feels good to have beaten every EU country with the exceptions of England, Germany (whom we tied), Netherlands (whom we also tied), and Denmark (tied). And Massachusetts beat all EU countries (indeed everyone except Singapore, Hong Kong (tied), and Taiwan (tied).

Not that this will do anything about the fact that every single European believes herself to be far more intelligent than every single American…


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