Blog: The Educated Reporter

Measuring Up: District Race to the Top Winners and International Test Scores

The U.S. Department of Education has announced the 16 district-level winners that will receive between $10 million and $40 million each to fund school improvement efforts. There were 372 applications nationwide. The winners represent 55 school districts (smaller districts were encouraged to join forces) in 11 states and the District of Columbia.
Among the winners is Nevada’s Carson City School District, which will use its $10 million grant to hire new teachers and implement a new data system aimed at making it easier for parents to track their children’s academic progress.

I’m still interested in answers to Politics K-12’s Five Unanswered Questions about the selection process. Hopefully those are forthcoming.

The latest results from an international exam shows that American students did better than average — when compared to some of their global peers — in reading and mathematics, although the United States continues to lag behind some Asian and European nations in critical areas. On the upside, America’s fourth graders were ranked high on reading.

The results come from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). TIMSS is given every four years to a representative sampling of students in grades 4 and 8. PIRLS is given to fourth graders every five years. 
You can find the full results for TIMSS here, and PIRLS is here.  EdMedia Commons also has a digest of news coverage of this year’s results.

Some fine print worth remembering: The exams are snapshots of student performance, and not definitive litmus tests. International comparisons are also difficult to make, given the vast differences in how the countries structure their public school systems.

At the same time, it’s interesting to note just how far behind the United States appears to be when it comes to students who are proficient in higher-level math. That doesn’t bode well for the country’s global competitiveness down the road.

“Given the vital role that science, technology, engineering, and math play in stimulating innovation and economic growth, it is particularly troubling that eighth-grade science achievement is stagnant and that students in Singapore and Korea are far more likely to perform at advanced levels in science than U.S. students,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “A number of nations are out-educating us today in the STEM disciplines—and if we as a nation don’t turn that around, those nations will soon be out-competing us in a knowledge-based, global economy.”

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