State schools to take part in international science, math tests

How do Connecticut’s eighth-graders stack up in math against students from Korea? Italy? Australia?

Educators will be able to answer those questions when Connecticut schoolchildren take part next year in an international study of proficiency in mathematics and science.

Connecticut is one of eight states that have agreed to test a representative sample of students on the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

Federal officials will use the data from those eight states to test the accuracy of a research method designed to predict how each of the 50 states would measure up in the international comparison.

TIMMS Scores--4th grade math


“We need to know how our kids are doing compared not just to Massachusetts but France and Germany and Singapore,” said Tom Murphy, a spokesman for the State Department of Education. “Frankly, the business community is worried about this, and so are we.”

Eighth-graders from about 60 schools in roughly one-third of the state’s school districts will take the science and math exams next spring, state officials said. Their performance will be compared to student achievement data from more than 60 nations.

In addition to Connecticut, other participating states include Alabama, California, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota and North Carolina.

State Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan said the results will help the state evaluate a variety of new school reform efforts including programs emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math.

The United States has taken part in international comparisons of math and science performance since the 1960s. In its current form, TIMSS has issued reports every four years since 1995.

Some individual states, including Connecticut, have taken part in TIMSS comparisons in the past.

In 1999, Connecticut eighth-graders ranked significantly above eighth-graders in 16 nations on a TIMSS math exam and below students in six nations: Singapore, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan and Belgium. In science, they ranked ahead of 18 nations and behind only Chinese Taipei. (Connecticut was ranked neither above nor below several other nations whose scores were within the margin of error of Connecticut’s average score.)

In the most recent TIMSS assessment in 2007, U.S. eighth-graders significantly outperformed students in mathematics in 37 countries but fell behind students in five Asian nations. In eighth-grade science, the U.S. ranked above 35 nations and lower than nine others.

Among fourth-graders, the U.S. ranked higher in math than 23 countries and lower than eight. In science, U.S. fourth-graders trailed students in four Asian nations but outperformed children in 25 other countries.