Would Foreign Students Score Proficient on NAEP?

K-12 Testing


Fairtest Examiner - July 2007

It's "common knowledge" that U.S. students fare poorly when compared with students the world over. So how would foreign students do if they had to meet NAEP proficiency benchmarks by 2014? Not too well, it turns out.

Former National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) acting director Gary Phillips developed estimates using NAEP scores to measure how U.S. students compare in mathematics and science with their foreign counterparts on the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

Phillips' study finds that of 45 countries in TIMSS, only six have a majority of students who would score proficient on NAEP's 8th-grade math test Even the top-ranked nation, Singapore, is far from the NCLB goal of 100% proficiency based on NAEP levels, with 27% of its students scoring below proficient.

Only two countries in the world, Singapore and Taiwan, have a slight majority of students scoring proficient in science, 51%. The U.S. is a scant four points behind high-flying Finland, with 30% proficient compared to Finland's 34%.

Making the NAEP proficient level the goal for all students will only guarantee that even more schools will fail, while the focus on test scores will continue to undermine the quality of education and inhibit necessary improvements.

  • Phillips' American Institutes for Research report is on the web at www.air.org linked from AIR News.