A principal reads to fourth-grade students in Nacogdoches, Texas.
(Photo: Andrew D. Brosig, AP)
Greg Toppo, USA TODAY
Results from a pair of new international assessments released today show that American kids are holding their own in math, reading and other subjects. In a few cases, they're actually bypassing the rest of the world.
Who knew, for instance,that Florida fourth-graders now read as well as their peers in Singapore and Finland?
The results could prompt educators to reconsider the results of a decade of school-reform efforts in places such as Florida, even if the achievement picture remains incomplete.
American students' average scores on the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in math were above the international average in both fourth and eighth grade, the ?ndings show.
Among the 45 countries that participated in fourth grade, the average U.S. math score was among the top eight. In eighth grade, the USA was among the top 11 of 38 countries.
In reading, U.S. students scored 56 points higher than the international average, putting them in the top 13 on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).
Only ?ve nations or education systems had higher average scores - and one of those was Florida, which asked that its scores be compared with those of other nations.
The results are promising: Florida fourth-graders' reading skills, at least on PIRLS, rank among the world's highest. In fact, no one - not Finland, not Singapore, not Hong Kong - scored higher.
In a statement, former governor Jeb Bush called the results "great news for Florida's students and teachers."
He added, "Sunshine State students are once again busting all the myths and proving that all kids can and will learn when education is organized around their achievement."
Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education, said the rankings don't necessarily mean that Florida fourthgraders are the best in the world. For one thing, he said, Florida was the only state whose reading results were compared internationally.
"I can't prove this, but I suspect if we had been able to give PIRLS to all of our states, we would have had a pretty decent-sized sample of states that were at or exceeding Florida's level," he said Monday.
Also hidden in the data: Finland, long considered to have one of the best education systems in the world, is slipping in math, at least in these results. Finland doesn't generally participate in TIMSS, but last year, for the ?rst time since 1999, it took part. Today's results show that Finland's eighth-graders have dropped 6 points from 520 to 514 since 1999. Meanwhile, U.S. scores have risen from 502 to 509, making the two nations statistically even.