Comparing U.S. Fourth and Eighth Grade Performance in Mathematics and Science With That of International Students
The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) just released its most recent study comparing U.S. and international students performance in math and science. A total of 64 education systems participated in TIMSS at the 4th grade, while 46 systems participated at the 8th grade. Among other data, the report looked at student performance and equity indicators. The data is from 2019.
MATH AND SCIENCE PERFORMANCE
In math, U.S. 4th-graders ranked 15th of 64 participating education systems. U.S. 8th-graders ranked 11th of 46.
In science, U.S. 4th-graders ranked 8th of 64 participating education systems. U.S. 8th-graders ranked 11th of 46.
MATH AND SCIENCE TRENDS
In math, U.S. 4th-graders’ average mathematics score was 17 points higher in 2019 than in 1995. U.S. 8th-graders’ average mathematics score in 23 points over the same time period. However, neither group’s performance improved over the previous four years.
In science, U.S. 4th-graders’ average science score in 2019 was not significantly different from their score in 1995 but was 7 points lower than in 2015. U.S. 8th-graders’ average science score in 2019 was not significantly different from their average score in 1995.
SCORE GAPS BETWEEN HIGH AND LOW PERFORMING STUDENTS
The study measures the score gap between students at the 90th and 10th percentiles of the distribution (highest performing students and lowest performing students). This is one indication of equity within an education system. The larger the gap, the less equitable the education system is.
In math, the score gap between top- and bottom-performing U.S. 4th-graders in 2019 was larger than the gap in 37 education systems. The score gap between top- and bottom-performing U.S. 8th-graders in 2019 was larger than the gap in 31 of the 45 education systems.
In science, the score gap between top- and bottom-performing U.S. 4th-graders in 2019 was larger than the gap in 37 education systems. The score gap between top- and bottom-performing 8th-graders in 2019, which was larger than the gap in 24 education systems
MATH AND SCIENCE PERFORMANCE BY SCHOOL POVERTY
Another indicator of equity ion an education system is the relationship between student performance and their poverty level. The more linked these two items are, the less equitable is the system.
In the U.S., both math and science scores were completely tied the poverty levels of the schools. TIMSS sorted the scores across five different levels of school poverty (highest poverty to lowest). The data was linear across all five levels. The higher a school’s poverty level, the lower the math and science scores.
Citation: TIMSS 2019 U.S. Highlights Web Report (NCES 2021-021).