How well are American students learning? Actaully, the U.S. is doing relatively well.

Browm_Center_Report_Cover_3.2013The following introduction is from “The 2013 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American Students Learning?”

This is the twelfth edition of the Brown Center Report. The structure of the report remains the same from year to year. Part I examines the latest data from state, national, or international assessments. This year the focus is on the latest results from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) released in December, 2012. The U.S. did relatively well, posting gains in reading, math, and science. Finland made headlines by registering declines from the last time it took the TIMSS math tests. At both fourth and eighth grades, the scores of Finland and the U.S. are now statistically indistinguishable in math. Part I also looks at the so-called “A+ countries,” named that because they were the top nations on the first TIMSS, given in 1995. Part I offers “A Progress Report on the A+ Countries,” and finds that, surprisingly, three of the six have registered statistically significant declines since 1995. Despite that, most of the A+ countries still score among the world’s leaders. The exception is the Czech Republic, which scored at approximately the international average the last time it took TIMSS in 2007.

Part II explores a perennial theme in education studies—the topics that never seem to go away in terms of research and debate. This year it’s on the controversial topics of tracking and ability grouping. An analysis of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) documents a resurgence of ability grouping in fourth grade reading and mathematics. Tracking remains persistent in eighth-grade math, with about three-fourths of students in tracked classes. As readers are surely aware, both practices have been attacked for decades as inequitable, and many school analysts thought their use had diminished. Ability grouping was dominant for a long time in the elementary grades. Reading groups were the norm through most of the twentieth century and then declined dramatically in the 1990s. They are now coming back—and back strongly.

Part III is on a prominent policy or program. This year’s analysis is on the national push for eighth graders to take algebra and other high school math courses. Algebra is now the single most popular math course in eighth grade. The study in Part III uses state variation in enrollment rates to ask the question: what has happened to the NAEP scores of states that boosted their eighth-grade advanced-math enrollments? The study uncovers no relationship between change in state NAEP scores and change in enrollments. States boosting advanced math taking are no more likely to show NAEP gains than other states.

Click here to read the complete reort.

Source: Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings
Image: Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings