Chance Favors the Prepared Mind: Mathematics and Science Indicators for Comparing States and Nations
- This report provides international benchmarks to help states see how students are doing in math and science within an international context.
- Good News—Most states are performing as well or better than most foreign countries.
- Bad News—The highest achieving states within the United States are still significantly below the highest achieving countries.
This paper describes state and international education indicators for mathematics and science using state data collected by the 2005 and 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and international data collected by the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in grade 8.2 Data from the two studies are expressed in the same metric through statistical linking. By expressing both assessments in the same metric, states within the United States can use TIMSS results as international benchmarks to monitor progress over time. The overall findings at the national and state level were as follows.
- At the national level, several Asian countries generally outperform the United States in both mathematics and science, while many African and Middle Eastern Countries performed significantly below the United States. The United States was generally comparable to other English-speaking nations and European countries. The highest performing countries were also the same ones that grant the largest proportion of college degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
- In mathematics, the means of five countries reached the Proficient level of achievement. These were Singapore, Hong Kong (SAR), Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Japan. Twenty-two countries were at the Basic level (including the United States), and 19 counties were Below Basic.
- In science, only two countries had means that reached the proficient level of achievement. These were Singapore and Chinese Taipei. Twenty countries were at the Basic level (including the United States), and 24 countries were Below Basic.
- At the state level, this report showed that although there is considerable variation in state and the lowest performing states were still significantly higher than the lowest achieving countries.
- In mathematics (in 2007 NAEP), no state average reached the Proficient level (although the Massachusetts mean is only one scaled score point away from reaching the Proficient level). Instead every state is performing at the Basic level with the exception of the District of Columbia, which is Below Basic.
- In science (in 2005 NAEP), no state average reached the proficient level. The mean of thirty-five states (plus Department of Defense Education Activity) are at the Basic level. Nine state averages are at the Below Basic level (see table 4).
The paper argues that the United States needs to substantially increase the scientific and mathematical competency of the general adult population so that the voting citizenry can better understand and reach a consensus on policies that address many of the world’s most pressing problems.
In addition we need larger numbers of people working in the scientific disciplines in order to better compete in a global economic environment. To achieve these goals, national and state policy makers need indicators of scientific and mathematical progress early in the educational pipeline. It is argued that the strategy of linking NAEP to TIMSS helps to provide this system of indicators.