What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance?
Here's a point never mentioned in headlines about international comparisons: Because social class inequality is greater in the United States than in any of the countries with which we can reasonably be compared, the relative performance of U.S. adolescents is better than it appears when countries' national average performance is conventionally compared. The authors note that U.S. policymakers and analysts have become quite sophisticated in their analysis of domestic test scores but "do not feel compelled to apply similar sophistication to international test comparisons." Executive summary Education policymakers and analysts express great concern about the performance of U.S. students on international tests. Education reformers frequently invoke the relatively poor performance of U.S. students to justify school policy changes. In December 2012, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) released national average results from the 2011 administration of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan promptly issued a press release calling the results "unacceptable," saying that they "underscore the urgency of accelerating achievement in secondary school and the need to close large and persistent achievement gaps," and calling particular attention to the fact that the 8th-grade scores in mathematics for U.S. students failed to improve since the previous administration of the TIMSS. Read this important report at the EPI website.
Martin Carnoy and Richard Rothstein,
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