American 8th-graders trail many in math skills 41-nation study shows U.S. is above average in science

November 21, 1996|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON -- The numbers don't add up well for American eighth-graders, according to a new 41-nation study of student achievement that indicates they lag behind in mathematics.

A study released by the U.S. Department of Education found that American eighth-graders are above average in science but trail many of their counterparts worldwide in math skills.

"This report is an eye-opener and should encourage all of us to pick up the pace in our efforts to improve student achievement," said Education Secretary Richard W. Riley. "We now have a very solid benchmark of what it means to pursue excellence.

"American education must take it seriously."

About 500,000 students worldwide were involved in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, coordinated at Boston College.

Rankings were based on such factors as test scores, an analysis of curricula and videotaped observations of classrooms. Students at three grade levels were examined but only the results from the eighth-grade study were released yesterday.

The study concluded that, when ranked by test scores, the American students were significantly outperformed in math by 20 countries and were below nine nations in science.

America was on a par with England and Germany, but behind five nations -- Singapore, Korea, Japan, the Czech Republic and Hungary -- in both subjects.

Riley and representatives from several education organizations

said Americans need to look at the overall trends and decide what changes are necessary.

"I want to emphasize that there are no magic bullets that can rapidly improve our educational performance as a nation," said Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences. "Many components of the educational system need to be changed as part of a coherent process, and this is going to take at least 10 years."

Pub Date: 11/21/96

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