The Washington Post

Virginia students above average on international test

Virginia eighth graders outperformed their peers in Finland and 38 other countries on a math assessment, according to the results of a first-of-its kind international comparison of academic achievement.

Their average math scores was above the international average, but below those of students in South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan (Chinese Taipei), Hong Kong, Japan, Russia and Quebec.

“We know that in this day and age it’s no longer Virginia vs. Maryland; it’s Virginia vs. Canada or Virginia vs. Japan,” said Gov. Robert F. McDonnell in a news statement Thursday.

“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.”

The average mathematics score of Virginia eighth graders was 48 points above the benchmark for intermediate achievement and 27 points below the benchmark for high achievement.

While U.S. students performed well on average, far fewer students performed on the advanced level, particularly compared to the highest-performing countries. In math, just 10 percent of eighth graders in Virginia scored advanced on the math test, compared to nearly half of those in South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.

Across the county, nearly three dozen states scored higher than the international average on the math test, and 47 states scored higher than average on a science test.

In science, eighth graders in only four countries — Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan — were ranked higher than those in Virginia.

Virginia’s average eighth-grade science score was six points below the benchmark for high achievement and 69 points above the intermediate achievement benchmark.

“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,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright in the release.

The study by the National Center for Education Statistics connected math and science scores of American students on the 2011 National Assessment for Educational Progress, otherwise known as the Nation’s Report Card, with results from the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which is administered to students in dozens of countries.

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.

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