NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Additional TIMSS Data Confirm Disparity In U.S. Public Education

April 5, 2001

More detailed results were released yesterday on the Third International Math and Science Survey conducted in 1999. They paint a picture of wide disparities in academic achievement between some suburban schools in the U.S. and their counterparts in inner cities.

The test -- which was given to a sampling of eighth-graders in the U.S. and 37 other countries around the world -- was administered by an international research consortium. While overall results were released in December, the new figures concentrated on 13 states and 14 school districts or groups of districts that volunteered to have additional children take the test -- essentially competing against the averages of the U.S. and the 37 other nations.

  • The math results showed the Naperville, Ill., school district and a group of districts in suburban Chicago scoring behind only five countries -- led by Singapore -- and far ahead of the U.S. average.
  • In science, Naperville led the international ranking -- with a group of districts in Illinois and Michigan, and the Academy School District in Colorado Springs also among the top six in the world.
  • But the results also showed districts in Miami; Jersey City, N.J.; Chicago; and Rochester, N.Y., scoring at the bottom in both math and science.
  • In science, only Chile, the Philippines, Morocco and South Africa scored lower than the 352,500-student Miami-Dade district.

The study also compared school resources and reported that 83 percent of students in Colorado's Academy district attended schools with few, if any, teacher or supply shortages. That compares with only 25 percent in Chicago and Jersey City.

Political observers predict that with Congress preparing to act on President George W. Bush's education reform plan this month, Democrats are certain to use the results to demand big funding increases for low-income schools.

Source: June Kronholz, "Some U.S. Suburban Students Score High, Urban Pupils Trail on Math, Science Test," Wall Street Journal, April 5, 2001.

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