The headline was "U.S. students score higher in math." But the story hasn't changed much since the 1990s: U.S. students still have a long way to go before they catch up to their Asian counter-parts.
The good news in a report conducted by Boston College should not be minimized. American fourth- and eighth-grade students made solid achievement gains in math in recent years, even though science performance was flat.
The United States does not lag behind the rest of the developed world in either subject, despite the common belief that they do. U.S. students are on a par or leading students in most other developed nations in both science and math.
However, children in Asian nations continue to dominate in both subjects. While U.S. students have improved their performance over the past decade, so have Asian students.
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Nearly half of all eighth-graders scored at the advanced level in math in Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore, compared to just 6 percent of American students scoring at the top level. The study reported dramatically higher math scores overall in five Asian nations -- Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and Korea -- far more than other nations participating in the study.
Singapore dominated in science at both grade levels.
Direct comparisons between the United States and various Asian countries can be difficult. After all, many Asian nations have far smaller and more homogeneous populations. The United States, by contrast, is a vast nation with 50 different state educational systems.
Nonetheless, it is clear that U.S. educators have something to learn from the way these successful Asian nations teach their children math and science. If the United States wants to remain competitive in research and development, educators have to figure out why this nation, despite its wealth and other resources, continues to lag behind.
However, American educators might not have to look so far afield to find systems that work. Students in Massachusetts and Minnesota scored higher, on average, than all but a handful of nations.
For example, eighth-grade students in Massachusetts scored higher than or equal to students in all countries but Singapore and Taiwan. In Minnesota, which has focused on improving its math curriculum, the number of fourth-grade students who performed at the advanced level increased from 9 percent in 1995 to 18 percent last year, one of the largest gains in the world.
Those scores indicate that U.S. students are just as capable of high achievement in math and science as those in any nation. And Massachusetts and Minnesota seem to have discovered the formula for bringing out the best in their students in these fields.
It's now up to the rest of the states to figure out how to apply those lessons with their children and catch up with Asia.