|Back to Feb. Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 229||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||FEBRUARY 2005|
|Tied with Latvia for 27th Place|
|More Math Bad News: U.S. Lags In Two New Comparisons|
Two respected international tests of math skills indicate that U.S. students continue to perform poorly compared to other industrialized countries, according to reports released in December.
American 15-year-olds ranked 24th among 29 countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sponsored one of the studies, using tests administered in 2003 by the Program for International Student Assessment. In a larger group that also included 10 non-members - many of them developing countries - the U.S. tied Latvia for 27th place.
One-quarter of the U.S. 15-year-olds scored at or below the bottom rung, while only 2% scored in the top rung of the six-point scale. The gap between whites and Asians versus Hispanics and blacks remains enormous. The top math scorers were Hong Kong, Finland and South Korea. The test also covered reading, science, and problem-solving skills.
No lack of self-esteem
A test by the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study found mixed results in 2003 compared to 1999 for American 4th- and 8th-graders on math and science tests, but it was clear that they still lag behind a number of industrialized countries. Singapore students led the pack in math and science in both 4th and 8th grades.
Of the 45 countries ranked in the 8th-grade survey, the U.S. was 15th in math and 9th in science. Of the 25 countries in the 4th-grade survey, the U.S. was 12th in math and 6th in science. Singapore has 44% of its students at the advanced level, while the U.S. has 7%. U.S. 4th- and 8th-graders made no progress in math since the last such test was given four years earlier.
This study was released by the International Study Center at Boston College and was analyzed by the National Center for Education Statistics. It included about 9,000 American 8th-graders in 230 schools and 10,000 4th-graders in 250 schools. The results indicated some narrowing of the test-score gap between blacks and whites.
NAEP math test too easy?
In a report issued in November, he wrote that almost 40% of the questions on the 8th-grade version address skills taught in the 1st or 2nd grade. Too many problems rely on whole numbers instead of fractions, decimals and percentages, he argued.
The Loveless report also found that only 22% of 252 surveyed middle-school math teachers had majored in math in college, and only 41% had teaching certificates in math.
Among U.S. college freshmen who plan to major in science or engineering, one in five requires remedial math courses, according to the National Science Board, an arm of the National Science Foundation. Enrollment by American students in graduate science and engineering programs dropped 10% between 1994 and 2001. Enrollment of foreign students grew 35%.
Singapore math more thorough
Both rote learning and visual tools are important in the Singapore approach. By grades 7 and 8, the pupils are doing high school-level algebra. The Singapore curriculum is already producing better test scores in the North Middlesex, MA school district, which began incorporating it in 2000. (Wall Street Journal, 12-13-04)
Meanwhile, traditional American math books by John Saxon, which were popular in many states including California before they were discarded in favor of "new-new-math" texts, are turning up in Asian locations such as the Philippines, reports columnist Linda Schrock Taylor. (LewRockwell.com, 12-16-04). Newer versions of the Saxon texts being sold in this country by the current publisher, Harcourt Achieve, apparently have moved closer to "new-new-math." (LewRockwell.com, 1-10-05) John Saxon is no longer alive to approve the changes.
'Anti-racist math' flops
The curriculum guidelines continue, "Students will:
With those priorities for a math curriculum, is it any wonder the Newton students are falling behind in math?