Education Week - January 9, 2013 - (Page 8)

8 EDUCATION WEEK n JANUARY 9, 2013 n READING LITERACY U.S. 4th graders performed better than their counterparts in most nations taking part in PIRLS, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, for 2011. AVERAGE SCORE 512 571 p 569 p 568 p 568 p 567 p 558 556 554 553 553 552 552 552 548 q 548 q 546 q 545 q 542 q 541 q 541 q 541 q 541 q 539 q 538 q 535 q 532 q 531 q 530 q 529 q 528 q 527 q 526 q 520 q 515 q 513 q 507 q 506 q U.S. Students Exceed International Average, But Lag Some Asian Nations in Math, Science By Erik W. Robelen A fresh set of global achievement data seems to offer something for everyone in U.S. education circles. The United States is consistently above the average of participating nations. But it falls far short of some East Asian countries in math and science. And, while the country made some gains in 4th grade reading and math compared with the last time the assessments were administered several years ago, U.S. 8th graders appear stuck. Then there’s the issue of squaring those results with the less-flattering outcome from global data issued two years ago, which had the United States either on par with the international average or, in the case of science, below it. The new results, issued last month, inspired a blog hosted by the stem advocacy group Change the Equation to feature a glass of water that, depending on one’s perspective, was half full or half empty. The post offered some evidence for both perspectives. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had a similar reaction. “These 2011 international assessments provide both encouraging news about our students’ progress and some sobering cautionary notes,” he said in a statement. “The encouraging news is that U.S. 4th grade students have made significant progress in reading and mathematics in the last five years, and our 4th graders now rank among the world’s leaders in reading literacy.” But, he added: “Learning gains in 4th grade are not being sustained in 8th grade—where mathematics and science achievement failed to measurably improve.” Results were issued Dec. 11 for both timss—the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, which covers math and science in grades 4 and 8—and pirls, or the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, which tests 4th graders. Arguably the best U.S. news came for a few states, including Florida, which in 4th grade reading fell short only of Singapore, and Massachusetts, which outperformed all countries but Singapore in 8th grade science and was near the top in math. (It did not participate in the reading exam.) More alarming to some observers was the fact that nearly half of all students tested in South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan reached the “advanced” level in math on timss, compared with only 7 percent of American test-takers. “One obvious stark take-away of some concern in a global environment is the huge gap that the Asian countries have achieved in mathematics,” said Ina V.S. Mullis, the co-executive director of the timss and pirls International Study Center at Boston College. She said that gap has persisted since the exam began in 1995. Russia, Quebec, Hong Kong, and Japan also outscored the United States by statistically significant margins in 8th grade math. In one notable twist that has sparked discussion, Finland, which drew international acclaim two years ago for its strong results on a different global assessment, did not produce the same standout results in math on timss. Its 4th and 8th grade scores were about the same as the U.S. average, and several U.S. states participating in the exam—including Massachusetts and Minnesota— posted higher scores. Although Finland’s performance in science and reading was stronger, and above the global average, Florida scored about the same in reading, and Massachusetts did so in science. In all, 63 countries and 14 regional jurisdictions took part in timss 2011, though not all took exams at both grade levels. timss is administered every four years. pant to outscore Florida. The state also outscored the U.S. average. Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which analyzes the U.S. results, said he saw positive signs in how the United States is progressing compared with other nations. “I tend to be quite optimistic on where the U.S. performs internationally,” he said. “We have a large and diverse set of kids to educate, and I think the results show we are doing quite well.” On timss, with results available for 4th and 8th grade math and science, U.S. students improved by a statistically significant margin in just one category, 4th grade math, since 2007. The average score in that category rose by 12 points, to 541 on the timss scale. That compares with a timss average of 491 across 50 countries and education systems in 4th grade math. (This average excludes seven benchmarking systems, as well as three countries that tested 6th graders.) As with pirls, scores are reported on a scale from 0 to 1000. The United States trailed seven nations and jurisdictions in 4th grade math: Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Northern Ireland, and Flemish Belgium. Among the many countries the United States outpaced in the subject were Germany, Ireland, Hungary, and Australia. In science, some of the same countries topped the United States at both grade levels, including South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, and Russia. In grades 4 and 8, Finland also outscored the United States; Slove- EDUCATION SYSTEM PIRLS average HONG KONG FLORIDA RUSSIA FINLAND SINGAPORE NORTHERN IRELAND UNITED STATES DENMARK CROATIA TAIWAN ENGLAND IRELAND ONTARIO CANADA ALBERTA NETHERLANDS CZECH REPUBLIC SWEDEN ITALY GERMANY ISRAEL PORTUGAL HUNGARY QUEBEC SLOVAK REPUBLIC BULGARIA NEW ZEALAND SLOVENIA AUSTRIA LITHUANIA AUSTRALIA POLAND FRANCE ANDALUSIA SPAIN NORWAY BELGIUM Near Top in Reading On the 2011 pirls, meanwhile, American 4th graders made considerable gains. The U.S. average climbed 16 points, from 540 to 556 on a 0-to-1000-point scale, well above the pirls average of 512. This average, calculated by Education Week, includes 45 participating countries and education systems. It does not count results for nine “benchmarking” education systems that also participated, such as Florida and three Canadian provinces, as well as several countries that tested 6th graders. Of all participants, only Finland, Hong Kong, Russia, and Singapore scored above the U.S. average. For the first time, a U.S. state, Florida, took part in pirls and outperformed every country and all but one jurisdiction. Florida joins some other participants in pirls and timss that are referred to as “education systems,” since they are parts of countries. Hong Kong, an administrative region of China, was the only partici- New Global Results Spark Questions on Finland’s Standing By Erik W. Robelen Educational tourism has become something of an industry for Finland in recent years, thanks to its strong showing on a global exam for 15-year-olds, but new data from a different set of assessments suggest Americans might not need to travel so far to learn about building a strong education system. The most striking contrast is in math, where the performance of Finnish 8th graders was not statistically different from the U.S. average on the 2011 timss, or Trends in Mathematics and Science Study, issued last month. Finland, which last took part in timss in 1999, trailed four U.S. states that participated in timss this time as “benchmarking” systems: Masschusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Indiana. Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, said the new results call for some rethinking of what he calls the “Finnish miracle story.” “Finland’s exaggerated reputation is based on its performance on pisa, an assessment that matches up well with its way of teaching math,” said Mr. Loveless. He described the Program for International Student Assessment as “applying math to solve ‘real world’ problems.” He added, “In contrast, timss tries to assess how well students have learned the curriculum taught in schools.” Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, said, “Finland captured the world’s attention for a variety of reasons, but ... there are other places to look for case studies.” And that includes some of the U.S. states that posted strong scores on the new global data. “It’s not necessary to travel halfway around the world to see this,” Mr. Buckley said. Finland’s score of 514 on timss for 8th grade math was not statistically different from the U.S. average of 509. Massachusetts scored 561, placing it below just four nations in the timss rankings. (The timss scale runs from 0 to 1000, with 500 the average of participating nations.) Finland trailed South Korea, the top performer on timss in 8th grade math, by nearly 100 points. By contrast, the Nordic nation of 5.4 million scored only 5 points below South Korea on the math section of pisa, a difference not considered statistically significant on the pisa scale, which also goes from 0 to 1000. None of the 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development outperformed Finland on pisa in 2009. Finland made a stronger showing in science on timss. It scored 552 in the 8th grade, well above the U.S. average of 525, but still shy of Massachusetts’ 567 score. Finland scored in the top tier for 4th grade readers, based on new data from pirls, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study. Its score was above the U.S. average, but about the same as Florida’s, the only U.S. state to participate Pasi Sahlberg as a benchmarking system. Pasi Sahlberg, the director general of the Center for International Mobility at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, in Helsinki, said that overall, he believes Finland “did very well” on timss and pirls for 2011. On math specifically, he wrote in an email: “I was not really surprised. ... Finnish math curricula put strong emphasis on problem-solving and applying mathematical knowledge rather than mastery of content. Pisa measures the former, timss the latter.” He added: “I think many U.S. states did very well on timss this time. But we must dig deeper in timss data before we can say much more than this.” Stepping back, he said, “I also think that education reformers should look at several high performers in education, rather than looking for a silver bullet from one country, whatever it is.” p Score is statistically higher than the U.S. q Score is statistically lower than the U.S. The PIRLS average, calculated by Education Week, includes 45 countries and education systems. It does not count results for “benchmarking” education systems (such as those shaded above) that also participated, as well as several countries that tested 6th graders.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 9, 2013

Education Week - January 9, 2013
State Lawmakers Gear for Action On Broad K-12 Issues Menu
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: Teachers Seek Specialized Peer Networks
Shootings Revive Debates on Security
Student-Press Ruling Resonates From 1988
News in Brief
Report Roundup
FOCUS ON: INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE: IB Supporters Tout Program’s Links With Common Core
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: Federal Effort Aims to Bridge Ed. Tech., Learning Sciences
U.S. Students Exceed International Average, But Lag Some Asian Nations in Math, Science
New Global Results Spark Questions On Finland’s Standing
Head Start Gains Found to Fade By 3rd Grade in Latest Study
Testing Group Selects Exam to Gauge ‘College Readiness’
State Chiefs Pledge Teacher Prep, Licensing Upgrades
Blogs of the Week
Post-Tragedy, Difficult Choices Loom
At Sandy Hook, Grim Day Unfolds
Legal, Logistical Concerns Seen In Call to Arm Adults
Tragedy Sets Off Fresh Debate Over Federal Gun-Policy Role
Advocates Worry Shootings Will Deepen Autism’s Stigma
K-12 Aid Outlook Murky, Despite ‘Cliff’ Deal
District Race to Top Winners Split $400 Million Pot
Policy Brief
Top State Ed. Positions Turn Over as Year Ends
CAROLYN LUNSFORD MEARS: After the Tragedy, What Next?
DAVID YOUNG & J.B. BUXTON: Language Education We Can Use
W. JAMES POPHAM: Formative Assessment’s ‘Advocatable Moment’
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
JEFFREY R. HENIG: Reading the Future of Education Policy

Education Week - January 9, 2013