Wednesday, May 11, 2005

US math-science education

We often hear about the miserable (or at best mediocre) performance of US students on international tests of science and mathematics. Certainly there is a lot of room for improvement, but it is important to note that differences in average test scores are largely due to America's struggle to deal with a social underclass.

Consider the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study eighth-grade science test, for instance, and the scores achieved by Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Had these states -- none of which has a substantial underclass -- been treated as separate nations, each of them would have been outscored only by Singapore. The significant variation in averages by state should be no surprise to anyone who has looked at average SAT scores.

Take a minute to consider this -- eighth graders from Oregon outscored their counterparts in countries like Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Hungary, etc. Who would have believed it?

I doubt that American high school seniors would have performed as well compared to their counterparts, as our high school curricula are particularly lacking in rigorous science and math. Nevertheless, these results show that our K-12 system isn't completely dysfunctional.

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