Education in States and Nations: 1991

(ESN) Indicator 25: Mathematics achievement (experimental)

Goal 5 of the National Education Goals states that by the year 2000, U.S. students will be first in the world in science and mathematics achievement. This goal is based on the belief that our nation's ability to compete globally rests upon workers having strong science and mathematics skills and on their ability to apply those skills to emerging technologies. In as few as five years from now, the youth of today will be competing in the global marketplace. They will depend on the mathematics learned in school to succeed in the complex business and technological environment of the future. This indicator compares the average and percentile scores of 13-year-old students in many countries to 8th graders from public schools in most U.S. states.
bullet In 1991, U.S. 13-year-old students had lower average scores in mathematics proficiency than students of the same age group in all but 2 other countries.
bullet Average mathematics proficiency scores among 13-year-old students in the United States were 23 scale points below their Taiwanese counterparts. This was more than half of the difference between 9- and 13-year-olds in the United States (40 points),* suggesting that U.S students at age 13 may be performing at levels similar to Taiwanese students approximately 2 years younger.
bullet Over 25 percent of 13-year-olds in Taiwan and Korea had mathematics proficiency scores above 300 in 1991, while about 10 percent of U.S. students in the same age group scored above that level. However, in 5 U.S. states, 25 percent or more of 8th grade public school students scored above this level in 1992.
bullet There was greater variation in the mathematics proficiency scores of students within countries and states than across countries and states. For example, among 8th-grade public school students, the difference between the 10th and 90th percentile was 90 scale points in Mississippi and 96 in Taiwan, compared to a difference in average proficiency of 39 scale points between Taiwan and Mississippi.
*U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education, 1994, Indicator 

Notes on interpretation:

In the 1991 International Assessment of Educational Progress (IAEP), 20 countries assessed the mathematics achievement of 13-year-olds. The country- level data provided in Table 25a are the result of a study linking the 1991 IAEP scores to the 1992 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores. Scores were projected for IAEP participants onto the NAEP scale. The state scores presented in Table 25b for public school 8th-grade students are from the 1992 NAEP Trial State Assessment. Caution should be exercised when comparing results across countries and states, for the age distribution of 8th graders tested in the states is likely to be older than the 13-year-olds tested in IAEP. Furthermore, the results of a linking study of this type are heavily dependent on the equating method used. For these reasons, this indicator is classified as experimental. See the supplemental note to Indicator 25 [on pages 281-291]> for a discussion of these issues.

Caution should be exercised when comparing states and nations by their rank order on any given test measure. These measures are subject to some sampling error. In comparing two estimates, one must use the standard error of the difference. (See the note on standard errors of estimates from the IAEP and the NAEP for details.) See Table 25x in the Statistical Appendix for the standard errors.
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