A look at the average mathematic and science scores.
When it comes to the mathematics and sciences, U.S. students are lagging behind other countries.
It’s true. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s 2007 “Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study” (TIMSS), the U.S. trails behind the following countries in average mathematics scores:
Republic of Korea
What’s in a test score? Apparently, more than initially meets the eye. Many educators and lawmakers think today’s test scores will adversely impact our future economy. In fact, our ability to compete in a global economy depends on our ability to educate school children in a way that will make a lasting impact on our future.
These results serve as a wake-up call to educators and lawmakers. Some politicians are calling for more classroom personnel, citing an obvious need to hire more teachers in an effort to reach more students. Others want to revamp the way we teach mathematics and science to our children. Either way, there’s a resounding call for change.
Since test scores reflect a student’s ability to apply knowledge, these results indicate that the U.S. has a lot of work to do to train our next generation of doctors, engineers, and scientists. Lagging test scores have lawmakers and educators worried about how the U.S. will fare in a global economy.
Conversely, test scores may not paint a completely accurate picture of how our students are faring in math and science. According to the Winter 2007 issue of The Bent of Tau Beta Pi, “Students in affluent suburban U.S. school districts score nearly as well as students in Singapore, the runaway leader on TIMSS math scores. The gap between America’s top-performing schools and low-performing schools is much greater than the gap between America and other nations.” Perhaps we should draw our attention toward what affluent school systems are doing well so we can replicate those same results across the board.
Regardless, in order to compete in a global economy, our students must collectively improve in these subjects. One of the major concerns is that because so many students are ill-prepared in math and science, fewer college graduates will become physicians, scientists, or engineers. If this trend continues, the U.S. will lose ground and will be at a competitive disadvantage worldwide.
Conversely, Asian countries continue to improve in science and mathematics. Even though the U.S. was rated third as one of the most-improved countries between 1995-2007, it still cannot compete with its Asian counterparts. On the other hand, South Africa, Philippines, Chile, Indonesia, and Iran scored the lowest. Countries showing the least amount of improvement are Sweden, Malaysia, Tunisia, Norway, and South Africa.
During his presidential campaign, candidate Barrack Obama stated that he would prioritize mathematics and sciences in our public school systems. The uneven performance of U.S. students has many lawmakers worried about how we will compete with other countries in the future. The current results do not paint a positive picture.
Because most students will not become physicians, engineers, or scientists, many are balking at these results. They state that we do an adequate job of preparing individuals for technological fields and we should focus on the overall positive results of our educational system, not test scores alone.