By what process could our education system reduce math skills of the average American boy by 58 points and of girls by 104 points while performance of boys in Norway *increased* 82 points and of girls in Norway by 22 points. This 186 point swing in the difference in math skills between Norwegian boys and American girls represents two or three standard deviations, on top of the 8 point difference which already existed at the 8th grade level.
"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the public believes is false". --The late, arguably suicided, William Casey, Director of Central Intelligence's 1st address to his staff in 1981
The average score of 475 for NSF students is lower than every AVERGE student in every country but three: France, the Czech Republic, and Austria. The girls in every country but Greece, France, Cyprus, Latvia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia scored higher. Girls in Norway scored 69 points higher, girls in Sweden scored 65 points higher, in Russia scored 34 points higher, in Denmark scored 25 points higher, and even girls in our own AP physics programs scored 28 points higher. While Austria was one of the lowest scoring countries, even their boys scored 4 points higher.
The less than 140 girls in the NSF Physics program who participated in 12th grade TIMSS performed very poorly in TIMSS physics: 41 points lower than the *average*12th grade girl in Cyprus, 34 points lower than the *average* girl in Greece, 13 points lower than Latvian girls, 68 points lower than Norwegian girls, 52 points lower than Russian girls, 62 points lower than Swedish girls, 19 points lower than Australian girls, 28 points lower than Danish girls, and 32 points lower than Slovenian girls. And of course compared to boys from all countries (*except* the US whose boys scored 9 points lower than NSF girls) they scored significantly lower than all others: 40 points lower than boys in the NSF physics program, 44 points lower than Canadian boys, 96 points lower than Cypriot boys, 59 points lower than Czech boys, 15 points lower than French boys,60 points lower than German boys, 70 points lower than Greek boys, 54 points lower than Latvian boys, 132 points lower than Norwegian boys, 109 points lower than Russian boys, 131 points lower than Swedish boys, 64 points lower than Swiss boys, 69 points lower than Australian boys, and 69 points lower than the international average.
Overall, the less than 300 NSF physics students who were selected in the US to take the TIMSS Mathematics and Science Literacy test DID score 39 points higher than the average US physics student (and 116 points higher than the average US student), but they scored 7 points lower than Canadian physics students, 4 points lower than German physics students, 71 points lower than Norwegian physics students, 77 Sweden, 31 Swiss, 23 Australian and Danish, and 5 points lower than the international average.
Iow, the average physics students from most European nations (and certainly ALL Asian nations, not one of which was represented in 12th grade TIMSS) outperformed our very BEST NSF students, both male and female, by HUGE margins. Physics students from only a few countries scored lower than our very best top (less than) 300 NSF physics students: Cyprus scored 66 points lower, the Czech Republic scored 5 points lower (but this is not statistically significant), Austria scored 20 points lower, Slovenia 24 points lower.
The score of 446 for NSF physics students in Electricity and Magnetism (in this age of the semiconductor) was higher only than Austrian physics students (by 14 points), and a whopping 124 points lower than the *average* Swedish physics student (with the top NSF female physics student scoring another 20 points lower).
Our very best NSF physics student, and in particular our very best female NSF physics student, can’t even begin to compete with the WORST physics students from more than a dozen Western European nations, and can barely keep up with a war-torn Slovenian who hardly has time to worry about physics instruction. It’s not like we have not been trying—our average physics student already takes between 3 to 5 hours of physics instruction per week, while students in the Czech Republic (with an equivalent score), Germany (43 points higher), Latvia, Sweden (116 points higher), and Switzerland (70 points higher), take less than 3 hours per week. Notably, the 43% of the NSF physics students who report that they take more than 5 hours of physics instruction score 26 points LOWER than the 6% of the NSF physics student who takes 3-4 hours per week AND than the 45% who take 4-5 hours per week. Clearly the NSF has selected not the best students, but possibly the worst, and attempted to make up for it by cramming physics down their throats, and failed worse than miserably.
The NSF could raise its average physics score by 26 points simply by eliminating almost half the students from the program who study endlessly but never are able to learn. If these half were replaced by Swedish students (two thirds of whom take less than 3 hours per week of physics instruction but score 579), not only would they raise their average score by 55 points (plus 26 points), but they would eliminate many frustrated teachers.
In relation to the amount of physics homework assigned to students, the lowest scoring NSF student is one who is assigned homework once or twice a week and scores 455, a score 8 points lower than a Canadian student and equivalent to a Swiss student who is not even taking physics.
How can it be explained that all of this additional, expansive, expensive, exhaustive, complete NSF physics instruction does nothing but produce students whose physics knowledge and skills aren’t even on par with so many non-physics students in so many other countries? Why would the 28% of NSF students who report that they are asked to apply science to everyday problems in *every* physics lesson score only 487, lower than students who are never asked to apply science to everyday problems in more than half the TIMSS countries, 78 points lower than Norwegian students who never do, and 110 points lower than Norwegian students who apply this only to “most lessons”?
Not only was the US score very low, but we were one of the Countries Not Satisfying Guidelines for Sample Participation Rates (See Appendix B for Details), evidently because we were unable to test 85% of our 12th graders as TIMSS requires. Had we done that, our 12th grade girls’ low physics score of 405 would have been even lower, probably lower than 360.
“Although countries tried very hard to meet the TIMSS sampling requirements, many
of them encountered resistance from schools, teachers, and students, and thus did
not have the participation rates – 85% or higher for schools and for students both,
or a combined rate of 75% – specified in the TIMSS guidelines. Obtaining a high
participation rate for secondary school students is particularly challenging when
participation is voluntary, because these students have many demands on their time.
Also, their educational situations may make testing difficult; for example, in some
countries students are engaged in on-site vocational training. The eight countries
shown in the second category in Table 1.1 followed procedures but were unable to
meet the TIMSS guidelines for sample participation. Beyond the difficulty of encouraging
students to attend the testing sessions, the five countries in the remaining two
categories encountered various obstacles in implementing the prescribed methods
for sampling schools or students within schools, usually because of the organization
of the education system. Because Israel did not clearly document its procedures for
sampling schools, its achievement results (unweighted) are presented in Appendix
D. Appendix B includes a full discussion of the sampling procedures and outcomes
for each country.”