Some perspective on recent math and science scores

December 18, 2012

MHTA – The latest TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) results, released last week, raise questions about STEM education in the US and Minnesota.

While it will take time to discern the ultimate impact of the current study for the state, the following is a Stanford study prepared for the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF), a non-profit organization that advocates and develops academic programs to drive scholastic achievement in the critical areas of math and science. The report discusses the importance of such international comparisons and what the United States can do to improve our educational system: What Can We Learn about the U.S. Education System from International Comparisons?.

The Stanford study examines the validity of the TIMSS scores in assessing a country’s educational system, what we can learn from past research to explain variation in international educational performance, and how much of the variation is due to factors outside of the system. The study also outlines three key factors that influence educational performance – underinvestment in teachers, lack of student accountability, and an inefficient allocation of funds.

Alternatively, another recent blog article provides a different perspective on the impact of the TIMSS study and a closely related academic performance study: Numbers Can Lie – What TIMSS and PISA Truly Tell Us If Anything.

Dr. Yong Zhao is an internationally-known scholar, author, and speaker. His works focus on the implications of globalization and technology on education. He has designed schools that cultivate global competence, developed computer games for language learning, and founded research and development institutions to explore innovative education models. He has published over 100 articles and 20 books, as well as authoring a blog at Education in the Age of Globalization website.

Dr. Yong Zhao contends that the TIMSS study tells the story of how the United States is doing in comparison to the rest of the world concerning a prescribed set of criteria, but is it the appropriate story that should be used to shape workforce development in the United States?

The one area on which both articles agree is the need for adjustments in the United States educational system. Education is the basis for strong workforce development in the state and in the nation. We need to provide the proper educational foundation for our students to ensure a healthy economy and a strong community. There will be a need for the entire community, both private and public entities, to engage in the discussions concerning educational policy and implementation.

Finally, Joe Nathan of the Center for School Change, offered his perspective in a recent commentary published locally: Surprising, encouraging Minnesota results on International math/science tests


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