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U.S. Students Trail Elite in International Tests

The TIMSS study ranks countries on each question asked in an international standardized test. Above, a composite image from the report.
The TIMSS study ranks countries on each question asked in an international standardized test. Above, a composite image from the report.

Students in the United States trail many of their peers in Europe and Asia in math and science scores, according to the newly released results of an international standardized test.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, compares scores by children around the world on a range of subjects. The study, begun in 1995 and conducted on a four-year cycle, ranks educational achievement at the fourth and eighth grades.

In the latest data, from 2003 testing, students in Asia continued to excel in math and science. Singapore, Hong Kong, and Korea were among the top performers in the study, which offered achievement results for 46 countries. The United States placed above the international average, but below several other countries, in both the math and science categories.

NPR's Renee Montagne discusses the results with William Schmidt, who directed the 1999 testing. Schmidt is a professor of counseling and educational psychology at Michigan State University. According to Schmidt, one factor perpetuating the poor performance of U.S. students is that their curriculum demands less from them.

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