Md. students average in international tests

Montgomery Co. scores on par with top nations

April 05, 2001|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

Against 38 countries in an international comparison of math and science achievement, Maryland eighth-graders did middling well, while Montgomery County students scored well above world averages.

The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) yesterday released a report showing for the first time how individual states and school districts scored against foreign nations in tests given in 1999. Maryland was one of 13 states and Montgomery one of 14 local school systems or groups of systems that participated voluntarily.

Maryland's average scores were statistically similar to the international and American averages in math and science, while Montgomery's eighth-graders excelled particularly in math.

County officials attributed the results to an effort to enroll more middle school pupils in algebra and geometry.

"Our student performance is certainly comparable to the other states, but that will not be good enough in the decade ahead," said Nancy S. Grasmick, state schools superintendent.

Earlier TIMSS reports had shown Americans trailing their peers in other nations, and yesterday's report gave officials no cause for joy. Asian countries were the top performers, although 27 percent of Montgomery's eighth-graders were on par with the top countries. Students in three U.S. cities -- Chicago, Rochester, N.Y., and Dade County, Fla. -- brought up the rear.

While he complimented the districts for volunteering, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige said the international disparities and the gap between urban and suburban districts in the United States are "disappointing and unacceptable. Tests like this one hold us accountable as a culture, as a nation. They make the achievement gap visible, therefore attackable."

The TIMSS study produced information about educational practices around the world. More than half the students in Japan and Korea were in classes never interrupted for announcements or administrative tasks, compared with 12 percent of Maryland's math classes and 15 percent of its science classes. Also, U.S. students were less likely to have math and science teachers trained in those subjects.

The tests, consisting of multiple-choice questions and open-response items, were taken by 3,300 students in a representative sample of Maryland eighth-graders.

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