Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
NOW Home Page
Home
Politics & Economy
Science & Health
Arts & Culture
Society & Community
Discussion
TV Schedule
Newsletter
For Educators
Archive
Topic Index
Search:
Pencil and eraser
10.17.03
Society and Community:
American Schools in Crisis?
More on This Story:
American Math Stats

Americans are familiar with embarrassing examples of our students' body of knowledge. Every year there's a series on the national news that shows youngsters unable to locate Switzerland on a map or students who associate Pearl Harbor with World War I. In late 2002, the results of a new international study were announced — U.S. college-age students rank seventh in geography knowledge among eight major nations. And according to the National Assessment Governing Board, which issues the Nation's Report Card, progress isn't rapid. (High school history and geography scores showed no measurable improvement at all between 1994 and 2001.) You can use our School Resource Map to check on your own state's Education Report Card.

Increasingly, it is mathematical skills that worry education experts. The results of the most recent International Student Achievement in Mathematics study, which measured thirty-eight countries against standard benchmarks, were dismal.



Eighth Grade Math

Singapore: Rank in relation to international average:  +80%
Rep. of Korea: Rank in relation to international average:  +63%
Hong Kong: Rank in relation to international average:  +58%
Japan: Rank in relation to international average:  +55%
Netherlands: Rank in relation to international average:  +16%
Hungary: Rank in relation to international average:  +8%
Canada: Rank in relation to international average:  +7%
Slovenia: Rank in relation to international average:  +6%
Australia: Rank in relation to international average:  +1%
Latvia: Rank in relation to international average:  -19%
United States: Rank in relation to international average:  -22%
England: Rank in relation to international average:  -28%
Italy: Rank in relation to international average:  -39%
Iran: Rank in relation to international average:  -102%


Even more startling is the performance of American students in relation to others in achieving the top two math benchmarks, which incorporate algebra knowledge. The top 10% benchmark requires that:
Students organize information, make generalizations, and explain solution strategies in non-routine problem solving situations. They can apply knowledge of numeric, geometric and algebraic relationships to solve problems (e.g., among fractions, decimals, and percents; geometric properties; and algebraic rules); and find the equivalent forms of algebraic expressions.
The top upper quarter benchmark (75th percentile) requires that:
Students can apply their understanding and knowledge in a wide variety of relatively complex situations. They can order, relate and compute with fractions and decimals to solve word problems; solve multi-step word problems involving proportions with whole numbers, solve probability problems; use knowledge of geometric properties to solve problems; identify and evaluate algebraic expressions and solve equations with one variable.

International Math Standards

Singapore: Percentage of high school students reaching top 10% benchmark:  46%
Singapore: Percentage of high school students reaching upper quarter benchmark:  75%
Japan: Percentage of high school students reaching top 10% benchmark:  33%
Japan: Percentage of high school students reaching upper quarter benchmark:  64%
Belgium: Percentage of high school students reaching top 10% benchmark:  52%
Belgium: Percentage of high school students reaching upper quarter benchmark:  54%
International Average: Percentage of high school students reaching top 10% benchmark:  15%
International Average: Percentage of high school students reaching upper quarter benchmark:  37%
Russian Federation: Percentage of high school students reaching top 10% benchmark:  15%
Russian Federation: Percentage of high school students reaching upper quarter benchmark:  36%
United States: Percentage of high school students reaching top 10% benchmark:  9%
United States: Percentage of high school students reaching upper quarter benchmark:  28%

Sources: TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking Study, International Study Center, Boston College; National Assessment Governing Board; THE AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN, June 22, 2002, "Student geography scores aren't getting much better"

Related Stories:

about feedback pledge © Public Affairs Television. All rights reserved.