Encouraging news out of international study

How about a Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza compliment for Minnesota’s students in fourth and eight grade math and science?  Recently released results of an international study in those fields had encouraging news for Minnesota.

Minnesota’s students did better than Finnish students on two of the tests, and tied with them on one and were slightly lower on one. On each test, Minnesota students rank in the top ten among the 63 countries and 14 “other entities” that participated.

The report was done by TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study), based in Boston. It’s available at http://timssandpirls.bc.edu/timss2011/

In math, eighth grade Minnesota students were seventh (after several Asian countries and Massachusetts).  Finland ranked 10th, including both countries and the states.   Minnesota eighth grade students improved from a score of 518 in 1995 to 545 in 2011.  Finnish eighth graders dropped from 520 in 1995 to 482 in 2011.  Minnesota and Finnish fourth graders tied for ninth, again including both countries and states.

In science, eighth grade Minnesota students ranked sixth, one point ahead of Finland.  Fourth graders in Minnesota ranked sixth, while Finnish fourth graders ranked third.

The United States ranked 11th in fourth-grade math, ninth in eighth-grade math, seventh in fourth-grade science and 10th in eighth-grade science (not including Massachusetts and Minnesota).

Part of Minnesota’s economy depends on companies that need people well trained in these areas.  As we made political decisions about the environment, it helps to have more people who understand scientific principles.

The new reports also cite the value of strong early childhood education, and family involvement.  Around the world students who had both scored higher than those who didn’t.

As legislators consider priorities in 2013, I hope they consider this report.  Among other things, we should modify testing, but not eliminate it.  Expanding  high quality early childhood programs should be a priority. — Joe Nathan  (Nathan directs the Center for School Change.  Reactions welcome, [email protected])