August 25th, 2009
02:17 PM ET

U.S. students fall behind international counterparts in math, science

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/08/07/swine.flu.h1n1.schools/art.school.daj.gi.jpg caption="The National Center for Education Statistics found that the U.S. students placed below average in both math and science."]
By Sally Holland
CNN Senior Producer

American children aren't necessarily getting smarter or dumber-but that might not be good enough to compete globally.

A special analysis put out by the National Center for Education Statistics last week compares 15-year-old U.S. students with other countries in the Organization for Economic Development and found that the U.S. students placed below average in both math and science. In math, the high schoolers were in the bottom quarter of the countries that participated, putting them behind countries like Finland, China and Estonia.

According to the report, the U.S. math scores were not measurable different in 2006 than the previous scores in 2003, but as other countries have improved, the United States has remained stagnant.

As for science, the U. S. falls behind countries like Canada, Japan and the Czech Republic.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told a room full of science and math experts of the National Science Board on Tuesday morning that this will hurt the U.S. as we compete in the international community. He said, "We are lagging the rest of the world and we are lagging it in pretty substantial ways."

He added, "I think we have become complacent. We've sort of lost our way."

Speaking to the audience, Duncan acknowledged that in some areas of the U.S., it is hard to find good math and science teachers. To solve that problem, he said, "I think we should pay math and science teachers a lot more money. We pay everybody the same. We have areas of critical need, math, science, foreign language, special education in some places. I think we need to pay a premium for that."

The National Education Association, which represents teachers, is arguing against such a proposal. "Simply being a teacher of a hard-to-staff subject does not equate with effective instruction, and therefore, should not be rewarded in-and-of-itself through a salary differential," according to an NEA position statement.

For the younger students, the 4th and 8th graders that were part of the mathematics testing have improved their average scores compared to their European counterparts, but still lag behind their peers in Asian countries like Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Singapore.

In science, 4th graders have fallen behind other students even though their average scores remain about the same. The 8th graders scores remain about the same compared to 1995.

"It has huge implications," Duncan says. "I think as a real economic imperative we have to educate our way to a better economy."

The study by the National Center for Education Statistics can be found at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2009/analysis/index.asp.

Filed under: Education
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Jack Flannigan

    Is this really any wonder? We spend a large amount of time and money to prepare our students to take tests so the school districts can be evaluated rather than invest time and money in teaching our students how to think and relate to the world around them. Education is valuable, as we move into competition with foreign students our lack of solid educational principles will hamper them in the ability to compete for prime positions. It is a new game and much different than when I went to school. I only had to be concerned with other students in this country, now with the business outlook bleak across this country the most promising and best jobs could well be outside our boarders. By the looks of things we are at best treading water compared with other countries. Education must be one of the highest priorities in the home and in our communities.

    August 25, 2009 at 6:53 pm |
  2. jaelle

    The only way to improve education is to fund all school equally. Children do not choose to have drug addicted parents, or to be from a poor family, and education is sometimes their only hope. Education is the great equalizer and what is behind the idea of "The American Dream". Why is school funding based on neighborhood taxation? If half of the families at an inner-city school are on social assistance, or or the school shares a neighborhood with government buildings who don't pay taxes, the school receives less funding. It is a disgrace!! It continues the cycle of poverty. How would you like to go to a school in a poor neighborhood knowing that not everyone on the team will have a uniform, or that some programs, science equipment, text books, etc are not available. Kids are not stupid. They know this isn't right. They watch Beverly Hills 90210 like everyone else. If you send them to a school that is well looked after, that provides for them in the way that they are expected to provide for the next generation, they will show more responsibility, and see a way out of their circumstances.

    August 25, 2009 at 6:44 pm |
  3. Joe G. (Illinois)

    Now.. If we could only admit all the rest we might find ourselves on the right step and direction.. But no… The liberals want hell on earth and equality for all. Their reasoning: “If that type of morals and family values worked for Borak Obama and he became president with pride and joy then..!

    August 25, 2009 at 6:38 pm |
  4. Annie Kate

    We have been told for so long that the US is the greatest country on earth in every way that we have become complacent and we don't seem to think we need to work as hard at our eduction as we once did. We seriously need to work on our education system, however, a good place to begin might be in identifying jobs which will stay in this country – right now it seems like eventually all the good jobs and not so good jobs will be overseas – so why worry about education? Identify a tangible goal that benefits the people and the country and I think we might see more interest in improving our educational system.

    August 25, 2009 at 6:27 pm |
  5. Mari

    We can not continue to be a great nation, without being able to compete in the World market! Without an educated populace you can kiss the good old United States, goodbye!

    August 25, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  6. JC- Los Angeles

    With the US falling behind in every other facet of modern life, it was only a matter of time until education followed suit.

    The connected few have done a wonderful job running things into the ground and should be commended for leaving no subject untouched.

    August 25, 2009 at 3:04 pm |
  7. Patti Burris

    1) Dr. Conrad Murray claimed to be unaware of Michael Jackson's history of dependence on prescription medications. (What rock was he living under?) Why would he then claim to be attempting to 'wean' Jackson off addictive prescription medicines, while providing the 'cocktail' of drugs that resulted in death?

    2) The nutritional nurse working with Jackson ran full blood panels and lab work, apparently revealing nothing in Jackson's system. Wouldn't any doctor do the same, before administering potentially lethal drugs?

    3) Is it possible Murray administered the Propofol drip first, later discovered Jackson in distress and unable to resuscitate him, gave him the other drugs to muddy the waters of culpability – relying on Jackson's drug history as a possible escape route for himself?

    4) If Propofol leaves the system completely within 1-2 hours, is it possible Murray deliberately 'burnt' time for the Propofol to disappear, before calling 911 AND before releasing Jackson to hospital?

    August 25, 2009 at 3:00 pm |