There’s good news hiding in the latest results from two reports dealing with how well American students are doing against those of other nations. Along with the good there is some bad in the two reports, “Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study” and “Progress in International Reading Literacy Study.”
First the good news. U.S. fourth-grade students had a higher overall average reading score than the international PIRLS scale average. Only five education systems had higher averages than the United States, Hong Kong-China, Florida-USA (entered as a separate education system), the Russian Federation, Finland and Singapore. The U.S. score was also 14 points higher in 2011 when compared to 2001 results, the first year of the study, and 16 points higher when compared to 2006.
Now the bad, or if you will, not so good. In math and science, the U.S. is ranked 11th in fourth-grade math and 7th in fourth-grade science; 9th in eighth-grade math and 10th in eighth-grade science. U.S. students trailed South Korea and Singapore in math and Taiwan and Singapore in science. Here’s the troubling part: Forty-eight percent of Singapore’s students reached the advanced level in eighth-grade math and 47 percent for South Korea, but only 7 percent of U.S. students reached the advanced level.
You can find the reading study at: http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pirls/pirls2011.asp and the math and science study at http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/
One aspect of this round of studies looked at early preparation of students, before the start of formal education, through questionnaires of parents. Those parents who reported they read aloud to their children or played number games with them scored higher in fourth-grade tests than those who did not. And students who attended pre-school also did better.
One of the answers to better performance in school is to start the learning process long before he or she crosses the schoolhouse threshold.