Governor Bob McDonnell today announced Virginia eighth graders ranked above international averages in mathematics and science in a first-of-its-kind comparison of achievement in US states with student performance in 47 countries and jurisdictions.
Speaking about the rankings, Governor McDonnell noted, "We know that in this day and age it's no longer Virginia vs. Maryland; it's Virginia vs. Canada or Virginia vs. Japan. We are competing globally for the businesses and industries that are creating the good paying jobs our citizens need and deserve. The number one way we can win in this effort is to ensure that our students get the best education possible, and our workforce is ready and able to succeed in the 21st century economy. Through our bipartisan efforts to bring more accountability, rigor and innovation to our public schools, we are doing that. We're competing in a global society and educating global citizens."
The long-awaited study by the National Center for Education Statistics connects mathematics and science scores of American students on the 2011 National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) with results from the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).
NAEP is taken by representative samples of American students and allows for state-to-state comparisons of achievement in mathematics, science and reading. TIMSS is taken by students in 38 countries and nine sub-national jurisdictions, including several Canadian provinces.
Mathematics achievement of Virginia eighth graders was higher than that of peers in 39 countries and systems, including Finland. Finland's public schools are frequently held up as a model for states to emulate. Only students in South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan (Chinese Taipei), Hong Kong, Japan, Russia and Quebec ranked higher. Mathematics achievement in one country - Israel - was found to be similar to achievement in Virginia.
"With this study, we now have a much clearer picture of how Virginia students actually compare with their peers around the world," Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright said. "Our elementary and middle school teachers and principals should take pride in how the commonwealth's students stack up against students in countries with schools known internationally for achievement in mathematics and science."
The study placed the average mathematics score of Virginia eighth graders 48 points above the TIMSS benchmark for intermediate achievement and 27 points below the benchmark for high achievement.
According to the study, Virginia eighth graders achieved at a statistically higher level in science than students in 37 countries and systems, including Hong Kong and Russia. Students in only four countries - Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan - were ranked higher. The study found that science achievement of students in six countries and systems - including Finland - was equivalent to the achievement of Virginia students.
"The world is shrinking and state-to-state comparisons are no longer sufficient: we must also know whether our students are gaining the knowledge and skills they'll need to hold their own with peers internationally," Board of Education President David M. Foster said. "I look forward to when the Board of Education can regularly obtain the scores of Virginia students on TIMSS and other international assessments."
Virginia's average eighth-grade science score was only six points below the TIMSS benchmark for high achievement and 69 points above the intermediate achievement benchmark.
Virginia was among 35 states whose eighth graders ranked above the international average in mathematics. The performance of students in 10 states was similar to the TIMSS average. Achievement in five states and the District of Columbia ranked below the international average.
In science, Virginia was among 46 states that ranked above the TIMSS average. The achievement of students in two states was similar to the international average. Two states ranked below the TIMSS average in science.