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October 25, 2013 at 4:51 PM

Washington outranks Finland in new test score analysis


Click on the graphic to see the full report.

In a new study of test scores, Washington outscored Finland in math.  Yes, you read that right.

We may wring our hands over how many students fail our state’s mathematics exams, but a new analysis suggests that eighth-graders here score higher than their counterparts in Finland, which is considered one of the world’s academic powerhouses.

The study was done by the National Center for Education Statistics, the federal entity that collects and crunches education data.

The center used statistical methods to compare scores on two tests — the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and an international test known as the TIMSS, for Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.

The new analysis looked at 2011 results for eighth graders in all 50 states and in the roughly 60 countries that participate in the TIMSS.

Thirty-six states, including Washington, scored higher than the international average in math.   In science, the picture was even brighter.  Washington and 46 other states scored higher than the TIMSS science average.

Such studies are not perfect, since they make predictions about how students would score on one exam, based on their performance on another.  Still, the results underscore a point that’s been made before:   Academic achievement across the U.S. is uneven, and when you look at individual states, some stack up much better internationally than the U.S. average would suggest.

Massachusetts, for example, tied for fifth place in math, scoring lower than just four countries:  South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.   Washington ranked 25th, below 17 other states and countries such as Japan, but higher than Finland which, in this analysis, was 38th.  The average score in Israel, England and Australia was lower than Washington state, too.

In science, Washington ranked 30th.  Finland scored higher in this subject — 11th.

Finland has scored near the top in reading, math and science on another international test — the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) — which has led to a lot of international attention.  The PISA is given to 15-year-olds.

The new report had some bad news for the U.S., as well as the good.  Although some states have solid average scores, none have high rates of students performing at the highest level.

In Massachusetts, the highest performing state, only 19 percent of students scored high enough to be ranked in the “advanced benchmark” category on the math part of the TIMSS.  In a handful of countries, about half the eighth graders reached that level.

Massachusetts was one of a number of states where eighth graders took both the NAEP and the TIMSS.

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Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: Finland, international comparisons, math


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