Assessments

Study: U.S. Fourth and Eighth Graders Score Higher in Math and Science

American fourth and eighth graders are scoring better in math than they did in 1995, according to a new international study released Tuesday.

The results from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), issued by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), also show some improvements over time in science among fourth and eighth graders. In 2015, fourth graders performed better in the TIMSS science assessments than in 2003 and 2007. However, there was no measureable difference between the average science score in 2015 and the average score in 1995 or 2011.

Eighth graders, too, have shown improvement in science assessments, with their scores increasing from 1995, 1999 and 2007 to 2015. However, there were no measureable differences from 2003 or the most recent time point of 2011 to 2015. Over 20 years, though, United States eighth graders’ science scores increased from 513 points in 1995 to 530 points in 2015.

Compared to other countries, American fourth graders scored higher in 2015 than their counterparts in 34 foreign educational systems, while they scored lower than students in 10 other countries, including Singapore, South Korea, China, Japan, Northern Ireland and the Russian Federation.

American eighth graders scored on average higher than students in 24 foreign educational systems and lower than students in eight other countries, including Singapore, South Korea, Japan and the Russian Federation.

In 2015, U.S. fourth graders scored on average higher in science than their counterparts in 38 countries and lower than seven foreign educational systems, including Singapore, South Korea, Japan and the Russian Federation.

American eighth graders scored on average higher in science than their counterparts in 26 countries and lower than students in seven countries, including Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Slovenia and the Russian Federation.

The TIMSS also tracked U.S. high school seniors, who have not scored better at advanced math and physics since 1995. The study also revealed a wide gender gap among high school seniors, with boys scoring 46 points higher in physics and 30 points higher in advanced math than girls in 2015.

There was no measureable difference between eighth grade boys and girls in math, yet there was a five-point difference between eighth grade boys and girls in science.

For more results from the TIMSS study, visit the NCES page that provides an overview and links into detailed tables.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at rchang@1105media.com.

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