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update: 3/27/2013

TIMSS The International Math and Science Study


PISA replaced the TIMSS in 2003. Both tests compare performance across nations, and by race within nations.

Headlines routinely report results that slam US (or Canadian) education, with rankings putting the US far behind other countries. In fact, US rankings broken down by race consistently show the US subpopulations score as well as all but the very top nations where they originally came from, be they Asians, Europeans, Africans or Latin Americans. In one year, 8th graders were about average, and close to other European nations. US 4th graders were #2 in science, and still in the top 20% in math, 5th out of 25. It has been reported elsewhere that US 4th graders are among the best in the world, contrary to criterion-based state assessments that US students do not meet state "expectations" which are allegedly "set to world class standards".

The late Gerald Bracey observed that there are many problems with using the TIMSS as a valid instrument for comparing the US with other nations. Ages are not comparable, Iceland students are US college senior age. It has calculus questions which is a college topic in the US, and US sends more to college than most other nations. Norwegians study 3 years of physics. There is no standard on what end-of-high-school age is, and many aren't even in school in some nations.

This is what I figured out back in 2004 for 4th graders:

From 2004:
Singapore Girl  599
Singapore       594
Singapore Boy   590
Hong Kong SAR   575
US low poverty  567
Japan           565
Chinese Taipei  564
US Asian        551
--- ASIANS TO BEAT -----
Belgium-Flemish 551
US White        542
Netherlands     540
Latvia          536
Lithuania       534
Russian Feder.  532
England         531
Hungary         529
US Boys         522
United States   518
US Girls        514
Cyprus          510
Moldavia        504
Italy           503
Australia       499
--- average --- 495
New Zealand     493
US Hispanic     492
Scotland        490
Slovenia        479
US Black        472
US 75% LUNCH    471
Armenia         456
Norway          451
Iran            389
Philippines     358
Morocco         347
Tunisia         339

US race from Table C8 Appendix C
In 2010, it makes mainstream with Pat Buchanan (Town Hall) quoting from Steve Sailer in "Who Owns The Future”. Sailer finds what I’v been suggesting to him and others for years – that if you break down the Americans by race, OUR Asians do better than than any other Asian nation except the top Shangai, OUR whites do better than every European nation except #1 Finland, and of course, OUR blacks and Hispanics are light years ahead of any African or Latin American nations.

So rather than concluding like liberals that American schools are failing, if you take into account that American groups are DIFFERENT in history and educational capital, we do BETTER or at least nearly as good as the best FOR EVERY AMERICAN RACIAL GROUP. What’s wrong is the idea that American schools fail blacks, hispanics or whites when:

“What American schools are failing at, despite the trillions poured into schools since the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is closing the racial divide. We do not know how to close the gap in reading, science and math between Anglo and Asian students and black and Hispanic students. And from the PISA tests, neither does any other country on earth. The gap between the test scores of East Asian and European nations and those of Latin America and African nations mirrors the gap between Asian and white students in the U.S. and black and Hispanic students in the U.S "

Which is why I say what’s crap is the idea that ANY two groups NEED to be equal in anything, or they are a failure. What I say is as long as you are doing the best job you possibly can and you are as nice as you can possibly be, that’s what we need to worry about. Arguing about who needs to be equal with whom, or why you don't like people who are higher or lower in status than you lead to more war and conflicts than anyone can count compared to people who are willing to be happy with themselves and their neighbors just the way they are.

But we're NOT doing everything we can. The “fix” the progressive education establishment has tailored for blacks and hispanics (fuzzy no-arithmetic math, no facts science, no dates history, no phonics/grammar reading/writing, multiculturalism, affirmative action, racial equity) is EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of what every study finds is why Asians do better than whites (study, study and study some more, AIM to score HIGHER, not EQUAL to the next guy). We need to bring Blacks and Hispanics up as close as possible rather than equal with RIGOROUS ACADEMICS AND MASTERING THE !#$% BASIC MATERIAL INSTEAD OF PROGRESSIVE RACIAL EQUITY POLITICS.



\clip\98\06\timsref.txt Editorial, The Richmond Times-Dispatch,
Sunday, March 1, 1998 "Wobegon" (anti-reform editorial): Clinton is
right. But -- as expected -- he exploits the dismal scores to plug an
education agenda ill-suited to the task. Chester Finn -- a former
Assistant Secretary of Education -- rebuts his policies:

@@AP students

TIMSS AP students AP students
didn't do much better than international average on TIMSS Calculus

@@Asian American

Comparing the TIMSS with the NAEP, two other people besides me have
figured out that Asians who go to crappy American schools score just
as high as Asians in Taiwan and Korea! Pat Buchanan and Steve Sailer
have also figured this out.

Pat Buchanan: Who Owns the Future?
Town Hall 12/28/2910

from the article: Steve Sailer of got the full list of 65 nations, broke down U.S. reading scores by race, then measured Americans with the countries and continents whence their families originated. What he found was surprising.

Asian-Americans outperform all Asian students except for Shanghai-Chinese. White Americans outperform students from all 37 predominantly white nations except Finns, and U.S. Hispanics outperformed the students of all eight Latin American countries that participated in the tests. African-American kids would have outscored the students of any sub-Saharan African country that took the test (none did) and did outperform the only black country to participate, Trinidad and Tobago, by 25 points. America's public schools, then, are not abject failures. They are educating immigrants and their descendants to outperform the kinfolk their parents or ancestors left behind when they came to America. America's schools are improving the academic performance of all Americans above what it would have been had they not come to America. What American schools are failing at, despite the trillions poured into schools since the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is closing the racial divide. We do not know how to close the gap in reading, science and math between Anglo and Asian students and black and Hispanic students. And from the PISA tests, neither does any other country on earth. . The gap between the test scores of East Asian and European nations and those of Latin America and African nations mirrors the gap between Asian and white students in the U.S. and black and Hispanic students in the U.S.

Here is the 2009 report

Table 5. Average scores of U.S. 15-year-old students
on combined reading literacy scale, by race/
ethnicity: 2009
Race/ethnicity Score s.e.
500   U.S. average
525   White, non-Hispanic
441   Black, non-Hispanic
446   Hispanic
541   Asian, non-Hispanic
NM    American Indian/Alaska Native, non-Hispanic
NM    Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic
502   Two or more races, non Hispanic
493   OECD average 

NOTE: Black includes African American, and Hispanic includes Latino. Students
who identified themselves as being of Hispanic origin were classified as Hispanic,
regardless of their race. Although data for some race/ethnicities are not shown
separately because the reporting standards were not met, they are included in
the U.S. totals shown throughout the report. The Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD) average is the average of the national
averages of the OECD member countries, with each country weighted equally.
Standard error is noted by s.e.
SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD),
Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), 2009
from the report: On the combined reading literacy scale, White (non- Hispanic) and Asian (non-Hispanic) students had higher average scores (525 and 541, respectively) than the overall OECD and U.S. average scores, while Black (non- Hispanic) and Hispanic students had lower average scores (441 and 466, respectively) than the overall OECD and U.S. average scores (table 5). The average scores of students who reported two or more races (502) were not measurably different from the overall OECD or U.S. average scores.

White/Asian "moderate complexity" Black/Hispanic "baseline level"

The average scores of White (non-Hispanic) students, Asian (non-Hispanic) students, and students who reported two or more races (525, 541, and 502, respectively) were in the range of PISA’s proficiency level 3 (signifies a score of greater than 480 and less than or equal to 553), while the average scores of Black (non-Hispanic) and Hispanic students (441 and 466, respectively) were in the range of PISA’s proficiency level 2 (signifies a score of greater than 407 and less than or equal to 480).

Students at level 3 on the reading literacy scale are typically successful at “reading tasks of moderate complexity, such as locating multiple pieces of information, making links between different parts of a text, and relating it to familiar everyday knowledge,” as described in exhibit 1, and other tasks that might be expected to be commonly demanded of young and older adults across OECD countries in their everyday lives (OECD 2010a, p. 51).

At level 2, which “can be considered a baseline level of proficiency, at which students begin to demonstrate the reading literacy competencies that will enable them to participate effectively and productively in life” (OECD 2010a, p. 52), students can typically locate information that meets several conditions, make comparisons or contrasts around a single feature, determine what a welldefined part of a text means even when the information is not prominent, and make connections between the text and personal experience. December 19, 2010 PISA Scores Show Demography Is Destiny In Education Too—But Washington Doesn’t Want You To Know by Steve Sailer
Steve Sailer: It took me two days of looking through the voluminous PISA results to create the simple graph below. It shows what the Great and Good don’t want you to know about the 2009 PISA results: When broken down by ethnicity, American students did reasonably well compared to the countries from which their ancestors came.

In this chart, I’ve depicted American ethnic groups in red to show where they fall relative to other countries, which are colored to reflect their dominant populations

\clip\98\18\factare.txt Facts
Are Worthless Without Nuance by Howard Wainer International 1991
Scores Estimated 8th Grade Mathematics NAEP Math Scores for Assessment
Hawaii's Principal (Predicted Ethnic Groups Proficiency for 13 year
olds) Taiwan 286 Chinese Korea 283 Korean, Japanese Soviet Union, 280 

[I also figured this out during the early 90s but nobody was
listening! It basically proves that Asians do well no matter which
country runs the schools! Stevenson of U Michigan disagrees, but his
comparisons are not nationally representative]

Test Scores of Nations and States
By Gerald W. Bracey
"The best students in Taiwan outperform the best in Iowa. But
Taiwan's fifth percentile is also substantially lower than Iowa's.
The lowest-performing students in Taiwan score much worse than the
lowest-performing students in Iowa."

These overheads show eighth-grade mathematics data from the 1992
Second International Assessment of Educational Progress (IAEP-2) and
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).1 The data look
like this:

                       Top Scorers
          Asian students, U.S.       
          schools                    287  
          Taiwan                     285
          Iowa                       284
          Top third of U.S. schools  284
          Korea                      283
          Advantaged urban students, 
          U.S.                       283
          Hungary2                   277
          White students, U.S.       
          schools                    277 

It is not clear why Asian American students score higher than anyone
in the world, but at least part of the explanation no doubt has to do
with the fact that, as a group, their parents are better educated and
more prosperous than the nation as a whole

examine NSF 96-52 ( which may be on line), full title is "Indicators
of Science & Mathematics Education 1995" and is a National Science
Foundation publication.  Figure 2-19 on page 28 is most interesting.
Want to really know the top 20 countires for math proficiency for 13
years olds?  OK, hold your hat, here they are.

   1. Tawain
   2. Iowa
   3. Korea
   4. North Dakota
   5. Minnesota
   6. Soviet Union
   7. Switzerland
   8. Maine
   9. New hampshire
   10.  Hungary
   11.  Nebraska
   12.  Wisconsin
   13.  Idaho
   14.  Utah
   15.  Wyoming
   16.  Connecticut
   17.  France
   18.  Colorado
   19.  Israel
   20.  Italy

If one disaggregates the international date, the USA looks very
different from what the popular press writes.  Most data are not
carefully analyzed.  Don Orlich Pullman, WA  99164-4237


Macroman Wrote: 12/28/2010
My own experience with my kids' schools and with education in general
(I am a university professor) is that the most important element in
kids' success before college is the attitude of their parents. Asian
kids do well in school because their parents expect them to do well.
Many black and Hispanic kids do badly because their parents do not
demand that the do well. In fact, many of those parents actively
discourage academic success, often because they resent the idea of
their children "being better than they are." I have seen that attitude
myself and have been told about it by black and Hispanic friends who
are appalled by it. Matters are made worse by school systems that
pander to the low expectations of some parents. Where demanding
parents are in the majority, the public schools are good



Most quoted critic of TIMSS study.

The TIMSS final year report and study a critique - 
there is no standard for final year 12 grade, many aren't 
even in school.

\clip\99\05\brac8\brac8.txt The Eighth Bracey
Report on the Condition of Public Education By Gerald W. Bracey

\clip\95\05\brac8\award.htm The With Friends Like These Award goes to
the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training. Recall that Ontario
is home to John Snobelen, the man who as education minister once said
that "you have to generate a sense of crisis" about the education
system. The ministry constructed the graph shown below [Canada is at the
bottom].  But Canada was about average, chart showed only nations
above Canada.

Kappan Professional Journal 8 May 1998
filed: \clip\99\05\timss\dims.txt
TIMSS, Rhymes with 'Dims,' As in 'Witted' By Gerald W. Bracey
Simplistic and misleading statements seriously distort
what the TIMSS official report actually says
* The TIMSS "kids" in Iceland are about the same age as American
college seniors.
* Norwegian kids, who bested the rest of the world, had been studying
physics for three years.

Tinkering with the TIMSS Gerald Bracey Phi Delta Kappan Sept 1998 
"In many countries, it is about grade 13 or grade 14 or about
students in their third year of study of a subject or about students
enrolled in a curriculum concentrated on math and science and little
* Age is not comparable
* Asks Calculus questions when most US
students don't take calculus, some nations only tested science / math
oriented schools where children get 3 years of physics. 

* 60% of us students go on to college to take advanced science and
calculus, only half as many in other countries go on to college, plus
most high school students in other countries at age 18 are on
vocational / apprenticeship tracks] 
* German college tracks enroll kids in grade 13.
link \clip\99\05\timss\kwan.htm "A Content Examination
of the TIMSS Items" Phi Delta Kappan Sept 1998. Test items have more
than one correct answer, give a wrong answer, or grade correct
answers as wrong.


4th grade math was not all that great

 There's more to the story below. Remember,
ten of the countries which bested us in the eighth grade did not
participate in the fourth grade TIMSS. Our improvement at the lower
level was not because of any encouraging developments. Our
"improvement" was because some of the fast horses sat out the
preliminary heat.

[June 17, 1998] [Education Week on the Web] International
Competitiveness In Science By Gerald LeTendre and David Baker

The Seventh Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education
\clip\98\08\bracey\bracey.htm  Phi Delta Kappan
Magazine timss: People have offered various reasons for the
"slide" from fourth grade to eighth grade in mathematics. I would
contend that it's primarily because mathematics instruction stops for
most students after grade 4 or 5. Thus it is interesting that the
variabilities of Asian nations are not that much smaller than the
variability of Americans at grade 4, and, for the most part, this
variability increases from grade 4 to grade 8 to become larger than
the U.S. variability in mathematics. Goya contended that the
curriculum in Japanese high schools is tough and unbending and that
at the advanced levels up to 95% of the students don't know what is
going on

z49\clipim\2001\04\25\backslid.gif 150dpi
U.S. Students Backslide on International Retest Wall Street Journal
Dec 2000 (?) June Kronholz - concludes US 4th graders who did well in
1995 fell to slightly above average, and worse if compared against
the original countries in 1995. "the repeat test was designed 
to see if children who did well on the earlier fourth grade 
test could sustain their achievement" .. "results showed 
US children did worse the longer they stayed in school" [But US
4th graders did well, even though low TIMSS scores are given as
reason we have to adopt fuzzy math]

In a quadrilateral, if you have two 115 deg, third 70 deg, what 
is remaining angle *a)60 b)70 c)130 d)140 e) none US 19% Int 40%
What is area of shaded rectangle in a parallelogram? (20 sq cm)
US 34% Int 43%

       ->3 <---
   +-------+ v
 / |     |/  4
+--------+   ^

.  \clip\98\08\bracey.txt
Copyright 1998 by Gerald W. Bracey.  AN OPEN LETTER TO SECRETARY OF
EDUCATION RICHARD RILEY By Gerald W. Bracey March 27, 1998 [TIMSS
results are not valid, not excuse to abandon public education]

American Prospect article says
there is no correlation between TIMSS scores and economic dominance
of a county.

"Bob Barbara Tennison"  3 Mar 1998 19:29:38 -0800
I don't know what is being said in the press in your neck of the
woods but around here the it is being pointed out that the TIMMS is
NOT an accurate gauge of how well our students do in Science and
Math.  I have noticed the reference to the TIMMS in cartoons as well
as many editorials. But combining the best of all the editorials and
letters to the editor are the following thoughts.

1. In the U.S. we test ALL our students.
2. In Japan, England and elsewhere they test ONLY their high achievers.
3. In the U.S. students do not hit their stride in science and math UNTIL
they go to college, because...
    High School Teachers are NOT proficient in science and math
    College Professors are more likely to use validated research and require
that their students validate their own research
4. If we are so bad, why are the Pacific Rim countries knocking down the
doors of our colleges and universities to get their kids in?

It makes me "feel good" to hear so many people on the local, state and
national level, saying that the TIMMS is bogus and we as parents shouldn't
put too much faith in the test results.
Bob & Barbara Tennison


Why do Finland's schools get the best results?
Finland's schools score consistently at the top of world rankings, yet
the pupils have the fewest number of class hours in the developed
By Tom Burridge
BBC World News America, Helsinki

Last year more than 100 foreign delegations and governments visited
Helsinki, hoping to learn the secret of their schools' success.

In 2006, Finland's pupils scored the highest average results in science
and reading in the whole of the developed world. In the OECD's exams
for 15 year-olds, known as PISA, they also came second in maths, beaten
only by teenagers in South Korea.

Children in Finland only start main school at age seven. The idea is
that before then they learn best when they're playing and by the time
they finally get to school they are keen to start learning.


NYC HOLD Honest Open Logical Debate on Mathematics Education Reform _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________    
The Christian Science Monitor
December 7, 2004   

Math + test = trouble for US economy
First-of-its kind study shows US lags many other nations in real-life math skills. 
By Gail Russell Chaddock | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
US 15-year-olds scored measurably better than their counterparts in
only 3 of 30 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development in a new test of problem-solving in math. Below are
results for 10 of the nations.
Country Score
S. Korea 550
Japan 547
Canada 529
France 519
Czech Rep. 516
Germany 513
Spain 482
US 477
Italy 470
Mexico 384
OECD average 500
Source: OECD Program for International Student Assessment, 2003

Singapore Girl  599
Singapore       594
Singapore Boy   590
Hong Kong SAR   575
US low lunch    567
Japan           565
Chinese Taipei  564
US Asian        551
----BEAT ASIANS -----
Belgium-Flemish 551
US White        542
Netherlands     540
Latvia          536
Lithuania       534
Russian Feder.  532
England         531
Hungary         529
US Boys         522
United States   518
US Girls        514
Cyprus          510
Moldavia        504
Italy           503
Australia       499
--- average --- 495
New Zealand     493
US Hispanic     492
Scotland        490
Slovenia        479
US Black        472
US 75% LUNCH    471
Armenia         456
Norway          451
Iran            389
Philippines     358
Morocco         347
Tunisia         339

US race from Table C8 Appendix C
Note US Asians comparable to best Asian nations
US Blacks comparable to below-average Europeans
Singapore girls score better than boys.

Singapore       605
Korea, ROK      589
Hong Kong SAR   586
Chinese Taipei  585
Japan           570
Belgium         537
Netherlands     536
Estonia         531
Hungary         529
US White        525
--- Better than US -----
Malaysia        508
Latvia          508
Russian Fed     508
Slovak Rep.     508
Australia       505
United States   504  std dev=80
Lithuania       502
Sweden          499
Scotland        498
Israel          496 (Jewish)
New Zealand     494
--- Lower than US -----
Slovenia        493
Italy           484
Armenia         478
Serbia          477
Bulgaria        476
Norway          461
US Hispanic     457
US Black        444
Iran            411
Indonesia       411
Palestinean National Authority 390
Chile           387
Philppines      378
Botswana        366
Saudi Arabia    332
Ghana           276
South Africa    264

US Asians not broken out in 8th grade
US Blacks comparable to lower Europeans
African and Arab nations fare poorly though they
invented algebra.
z47\clip\2000\12\achmath.txt Improve what we’re teaching our kids
Sunday, December 10, 2000 By LOUIS V. GERSTNER JR. and TOMMY G.
THOMPSON GUEST COLUMNISTS [Achieve] "What American schools consider
eighth-grade math is barely sixth-grade math in countries like The
Netherlands and Singapore. "

The spin on the 2000 test is that it's nice that our 4th graders are
still on top, but they didn't stay on top in 8th grade, and we're in
crisis even though we're above the international average, and we
still need to raise standards to world class levels even though
international average _IS_ world class.

z47\clip\2000\12\math8.htm US eighth-graders beat global average in
math By Gail Russell Chaddock ( Staff writer of
The Christian Science Monitor 12/6/2000

A club has 86 members, but 14 more girls than boys. How many 
boys and girls?
x = number of boys
x + (14 + x ) = 86
2x + 14 = 86
2x + 14 - 14 = 86 - 14
2x / 2 = 72 / 2
x = 36 boys
86 - 36 = 50 girls
72% Singapore
66% Taipei
40% Russia
33% World Average
29% US
Source: Boston College, TIMSS

U.S. Students Fail to Keep Up in Global Science and Math Tests December 6,
2000 By DIANA JEAN SCHEMO WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 Four years after
American fourth-grade students scored high on an international test
of science and math, their performance declined markedly when they
reached the eighth grade, The reforms on which their hopes hinged,
included the efforts of school districts to bring uniformity and
coherence to science and math curriculums... and to raise standards.

z42\clip\2000\06\harvey.txt .HTM
Seattle Times Company
Sunday, May 07, 2000 
The higher the grade level, the lower the scores for American students 
by James Harvey Special to The Times

Brown Center on Education Policy
and New American Schools
Transforming American Schools
A Brown Center Issues in Education Series Event
A Legacy of Learning
Your Stake in Standards and New Kinds of Public Schools  
David T. Kearns and
James Harvey
Foreword by George Bush 
c. 216 pp. / 2000 
Cloth 0-8157-4894-9 $24.95 
Brookings Institution Press

\clip\98\05\iqtimss.txt NY TIMES, March 2, 1998 Letters to the Editor

\clip\98\06\newscl01.txt 3/1/98 New York Times Tests Prove That
Nobody's Smart About Intelligence By GEORGE JOHNSON [TIMSS, RISING

US Students Don't Measure Up: Dismal Performance on international
math science test (TIMSS) Feb 24, 1998 San Francisco Examiner. US
among lowest of 21 nations in 12th grade. Science and math are
"repetitive and unchallenging". US teaches one subject per year,
other nations blend disciplines (advocating integrated curriculum?)
US in math = Czech Republic, Italy, Russa. No Asian nations
participated. Science = Czech France, Germany, Russia. Advanced math
= Austraia, Czech, Germany, Italy, but 11 nations, including Russia
were better. In physics, US was last with Austria (but consistently
equal to rival Germany in almost every case!)

z39\clipim\99\12\15\whostop.efx Who's Top Economist March 29, 1997
Rankings of nations show Singapore, Japan at top of 13 yr old math
and science rankings, but also shows controversies. "the average
scores of American and British pupils are mediocre because average
performance is mediocre, not because of some peculiarity at the very
bottom". The scale was scored so 500 was average, the US was average,
not rock bottom out of a very respectable group of advanced nations.

Julia Whitburn of Britains National Institute of Economic and Social
Research has studied math teaching in Japan and Switzerland, some
common factors: (In general, traditional instructivist math)

- more time is spent on basic arithmetic rather than general topics
such as handling data (statistics?)
- pupils learn to do sums in their heads before they are taught to do
them on paper, calculators are banned.
- standardized teaching manuals
- whole-class instruction, teaching whole class, then posing
questions to each pupil to check comprehension. Americans let
children work in groups.

 Why America Has the World's Dimmest
Bright Kids 2/26/98 By CHESTER E. FINN JR. [US 12 graders rate
low on TIMSS in science]

TIMSS as justification for new-new

US Dept of Ed 8th grade report "Pursuing Excellence" U.S. eighth
graders score below average in mathematics achievement and above
average in science achievement, compared to the 41 nations in the
TIMSS assessment. 

      In mathematics, our eighth-grade students' international
standing is stronger in Algebra and Fractions than in Geometry and

The content taught in U.S. eighth-grade mathematics classrooms is at
a seventh-grade level in comparison to other countries. 

The content of U.S. mathematics classes requires less high-level
thought than classes in Germany and Japan.

      U.S. mathematics teachers' typical goal is to teach students
how to do something, while Japanese teachers' goal is to help them
understand mathematical concepts.

     Japanese teachers widely practice what the U.S. mathematics
reform recommends, while U.S. teachers do so less frequently.

Eighth-grade students of different abilities are typically divided
into different classrooms in the U.S., and different schools in
Germany. In Japan, no ability grouping is practiced. 

In the U.S. students in higher-level mathematics classes study
different material than students in lower-level classes. In Germany
and Japan, all students study the same material, although in Germany,
lower-level classes study it less deeply and rigorously. 

The content of U.S. eighth-grade mathematics classes is not as
challenging as that of other countries, and topic coverage is not as

As noted earlier, the U.S. eighth-grade mathematics curriculum
focuses more on arithmetic, while the German and Japanese curricula
focus more on geometry and algebra. Furthermore, U.S. eighth graders
are studying topics usually learned at the seventh grade in most
other TIMSS countries. 


National rankings and average scores of eighth-grade students in math
and science according to the Third International Mathematics and
Science Study, a private research study.  There is a 10 point margin
of error.
Comment - America actually compares favorably with other nations with
Caucasians, especially considering that 25% of the population is of
under-performing African and Latino descent. The top nations are all
East Asian. This study does not break down Americans by race, if they
did, Asian Americans would likely score as high as Asians in their
home countries, and Whites would rank near the top of the European

   Singapore,         643 
   Korea,             607 
   Japan,             605 
   Hong Kong,         588 
------ E Asia 588-643 ----
   Belgium (Flemish), 565 
   Czech Republic,    564 
   Slovak Republic,   547 
   Switzerland,       545 
   Netherlands,       541 
   Slovenia,          541. 
   Bulgaria,          540. 
   Austria,           539. 
   France,            538. 
   Hungary,           537. 
   Russian Federation,535. 
   Australia,         530. 
   Ireland,           527. 
   Canada,            527. 
   Belgium (French),  526. 
   Thailand,          522. 
   Israel,            522. 
   Sweden,            519. 
   Germany,           509. 
   New Zealand,       508. 
   England,           506. 
   Norway,            503. 
   Denmark,           502. 
   United States,     500. 
------ US near other Europeans 500-560 ----
   Scotland,          498. 
   Latvia,            493. 
   Spain,             487. 
   Iceland,           487. 
   Greece,            484. 
   Romania,           482. 
   Lithuania,         477. 
   Cyprus,            474. 
   Portugal,          454. 
   Iran,              428. 
   Kuwait,            392. 
   Colombia,          385. 
   South Africa,      354. 
   Singapore, 607. 
   Czech Republic, 574. 
   Japan, 571. 
   Korea, 565. 
   Bulgaria, 565. 
   Netherlands, 560. 
   Slovenia, 560. 
   Austria, 558. 
   Hungary, 554. 
   England, 552. 
   Belgium (Flemish), 550. 
   Australia, 545. 
   Slovak Republic, 544. 
   Russian Federation, 538. 
   Ireland, 538. 
   Sweden, 535. 
   United States, 534. 
   Germany, 531. 
   Canada, 531. 
   Norway, 527. 
   New Zealand, 525. 
   Thailand, 525. 
   Israel, 524. 
   Hong Kong, 522. 
   Switzerland, 522. 
   Scotland, 517. 
   Spain, 517. 
   France, 498. 
   Greece, 497. 
   Iceland, 494. 
   Romania, 486. 
   Latvia, 485. 
   Portugal, 480. 
   Denmark, 478. 
   Lithuania, 476. 
   Belgium (French), 471. 
   Iran, 470. 
   Cyprus, 463. 
   Kuwait, 430. 
   Colombia, 411. 
   South Africa, 326. 

US 4th graders lag behind other nations in Math, Science (but chart
does not show US was in top 20%)
              Math   Science   ’93 spending    					                         								 								 	 
Country       score  score     per student*						                         								 								 	 
Korea         611    597       $1,715							                         								 								 	 
Japan         597    574       $3,960							                         								 								 	 
Republic      567    557       $1,506							                         								 								 	 
Ireland       550    539       $1,882							                         								 								 	 
United States 545    565       $5,492							                         								 								 	 
New Zealand   499    531       $2,659							                         								 								 	 
Iceland       474    505       $2,645							                         								 								 	 
* U.S dollars								 					                         								 								 	 
Sources: OECD, Third International							 	                         								 								 	 
Mathematics and Science Study (1997)                              

"Czech students excel at math, science" Seattle Times Feb 15, 1998 p.
A17. Czech students rank with best Asian nations. Students enter 1st
grade able to count to 5, sit in rows with flashcards, drills,
workbook problems. US 7th and 8th graders way down the list, 4th
graders were 4th in science but falling far behind in math. No pain,
no gain vs. "math is fun" frequent testing, unforgiving grading,
memorization of formulas and equations, teacher has the last word.
Student enjoyed school in the US more.

From table by MSNBC
"An exodus from the public schools?" MSNBC 11/25/97

\clip\97\16\timss4\timss4.htm Education Week Jun 18, 1997 ranking:
Science 1- Korea 2 Japan 3 US/Australia Math 1- Singapore 2 Korea 3
Japan 4 Hong Kong .... 11 - Australia 12- US

\CLIP\97\15\MATHSTAN.TXT 4th-Graders Excel In Science, Math By SONYA
ROSS Associated Press Writer Tuesday, June 10, 1997 6:14 pm EDT "the
Third International Mathematics and Science Study showed American
fourth-graders second among 26 countries in science, outpaced only by
South Korea. In math, U.S. students came in behind five other
countries: Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and the Czech

\clip\96\09\timss.txt AP 20-Nov-1996 7:58 EST REF5345 American Kids
Bad In Math By DEB RIECHMANN Associated Press Writer
Third International Math and Science Study Academic Press
Inscight (Science Magazine) Posted 10 June 1997, 5 pm PST U.S. Kids
Start Strong in Science, Then Fade Washington, D.C.--Elementary
school students in the United States are world-class achievers in
science. 084.html

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News
Number 84: July 3, 1997 U.S. 4th-Graders Make Good Showing in Math
and Science The latest findings from the most recent international
comparison of grade-school math and science achievement reveals some
more optimistic results for the U.S. than earlier data. The first
report based on the "Third International Mathematical and Science
Study" (TIMSS), released in November, focused on eighth-graders (see
FYI #159, 1996.) It showed that U.S. eighth-graders ranked slightly
below the international average in math, and slightly above in
science. The more recent report, put out on June 10, targets
fourth-graders, with a more positive result: "U.S. fourth-graders
perform above the international average of the 26 TIMSS countries in
both mathematics and science." 

10/1/97 Education Week
Ill. Scores at Odds With Perceptions of Capabilities By Kathleen
Kennedy Manzo Illinois teachers and students feel confident about
their knowledge of science and math, but that confidence is at odds
with the state's lackluster performance in an international
comparison. The sample of 2,000 Illinois students scored on a par
with American students in general, but significantly lower than peers
in 25 other countries in math and 16 other countries in science.

November 21, 1996 
U.S. students aren't at the top of the class
Associated Press . Average: American teens score low in math, but
better in science WASHINGTON (AP) - American eighth graders ranked
28th in math tests given to students in 41 nations, far behind Asian
countries at the top of the list. The U.S. students made it into the
top half in science, ranking 17th.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has a videotape study
that shows Japanese teachers already were doing a better job
implementing the kind of reforms the council advocates.  In the
United States and Germany, students are taught procedures for solving
practice math problems, said Jim Stigler, who directed the classroom
videotape study. In Japan, the goal is conceptual understanding, he


\clip\97\01\timss.txt Education Week Volume 16, Issue 13, November
27, 1996 Copyright 1996, Editorial Projects in Education, Inc.  U.S.
Students About Average In Global Study By Millicent Lawton

\clip\96\09\timss.txt AP 20-Nov-1996 7:58 EST REF5345 American Kids
Bad In Math By DEB RIECHMANN Associated Press Writer
Third International Math and Science Study


AMERICAN GIRLS DO POORLY ON TIMSS MATH SCIENCE z42\doc\web\2000\05\girltims.txt
Summary of TIMSS The TIMSS (Third International Math & Science Study)
provided an unprecedented opportunity for debate and analysis of the
US education system.  It demonstrated that the "gender gap" (the
difference between boys' and girls' test scores) is constant across
the world and is not the result of some systemic discrimination
against girls and in favor of boys in the US, as claimed by
feminists.  It demonstrates that American 12th grade girls had been
taught math and physics principles, but that zero percent of them
were able to apply those principles to problem solving.


Prof Wm Schmidt PHD of TIMSS
study says TIMSS proves we have to reform math, but it's really a
thinly disguised sales pitch for OBE/standards-based education reform
and fuzzy math.

@@PIRLS Progress In International Reading Literacy Study

downmload pdf report

The top-performing countries in PIRLS 2011 were Hong Kong SAR, Russian Federation, Finland, and Singapore. In addition to the four top-performers, Northern Ireland, the United States, Denmark, Croatia, and Chinese Taipei had high average achievement, followed by Ireland and England who also performed very well and rounded out the top eleven highachieving countries. The US state of Florida and the Canadian province of Ontario also did very well.

girls average: 520 boys average: 504

Little Reduction in Large Gender Gap Favoring Girls In nearly all of the countries and benchmarking participants, girls outperformed boys in 2011, and there has been little reduction in the reading achievement gender gap over the decade.

@@Private Schools

Council for American Private Education
Test Results Show Private Education Raises Test Scores
The Counsel for American Private Education reported that American
private schools scored significantly above the national average on
tests that measured math and science performance in 38 countries
around the world. If private school scores had been included in the
rating for the U.S. ranking among other countries, the U.S. would
have gone from being ranked 19th in math to 12th and from 18th in
science to 6th.


If Americans were broken out separately by race, the Asians would rank the highest, Whites fairly high up, and underperforming minorities would rank with the worst nations.

US WHITE EIGHTH GRADERS WOULD BE 6TH IN SCIENCE, 13TH MATH Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2004 10:41:03 -0500 Eighth-graders in the U.S. scored 515 on the science portion of the 1999 TIMSS test, in 18th place. But white students in America scored 547, which would put them in sixth place, behind only Taiwan, Singapore, Hungary, Japan, and Korea. That is higher than all Western European countries. In math, the U.S. scored 502, which is 19th place. White students scored 525, which would tie them with Australia for 13th place. Ethnic data from For a criticism of TIMSS as a method of comparison, see

TIMSS FAILINGS CONCENTRATED AMONG MINORITIES, WHITES WOULD BE IN TOP 3 z47\clip\2001\01\timsbad.txt ---------------------------------------
The Washington Post Our Schools vs. Theirs: Averages That Hide The True Extremes By David C. Berliner Sunday, January 28, 2001 ; Page B03 Statistically, these public school students are on a par with the top scorers internationally in mathematics and science. Improving public schools where students are doing this well would be difficult. In science, for the items common to both the TIMSS and the TIMSS-R, the scores of white students in the United States were exceeded by only three other nations. But black American school children were beaten by every single nation, and Hispanic kids were beaten by all but two nations. A similar pattern was true of mathematics scores.


\clip\2011\01\Chinese students' high scores Chinese students' high scores in international tests come at a cost Teens are under great pressure to do well on exams, with no time for friends or sports.

"They do very well in those subjects the teacher assigns them. They have huge vocabularies and they do math well. However, the level of their creativity and imagination is low.

they enjoy the very best China's uneven schools can offer. Their experience has little in common with those of their peers in rural schools, or the makeshift migrant schools of the big cities, not to mention the armies of teenagers who abandon secondary school in favor of the factory floor.

they told their teachers that the questions had been simple. "We are fully aware of the situation: Their creativity is lacking. They suffer very poor health, they are not strong and they get injured easily," vice principal Chen Ting said

Parents who obeyed China's one-child policy whisper to their lone offspring that the family's destiny hangs on the test score


Harlow, A., & Jones, A. Why students answer TIMSS science test items
the way they do.
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to explore how year 8 students
answered Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)
questions and whether the test questions represented the scientific
understanding of these students.
"only 13% of the written test items actually elicited the
knowledge held by the students in the middle school interview sample.
For 58% of the items in the test, students had more knowledge than
they wrote in their written responses, and for 29% of the items,
students who had the 'correct' written response did not have a
complete understanding of the concept being assessed." (p. 10)