And only 54 percent of Japanese students. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
With the release of a bevy of education testing results by various news outlets, you probably didn’t read that headline, but you should have. With this year’s release of the NAEP data as well as state exam scores*, we are seeing story after story decrying how few students are prepared for college. Massachusetts, which does the best of all states, only has around fifty percent of its students scoring as ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced’–which is somehow being transmogrified into ‘college ready.’
Except, as we’ve noted many times before, when Massachusetts by itself compared to other countries, it scores higher than any other European country, including Blessed Finland™. Since Massachusetts has half of its students score at proficient or higher, we can use the average score (remember NAEP scores are normalized) as a stand-in for ‘proficiency’ on other exams. If we look at the eighth TIMMS 2011 math scores (pdf; the 2015 haven’t been released yet, but Massachusetts in 2011 was at fifty percent that year as well), Massachusetts scores higher than any other European country. This suggests that less than half–in some cases much less than half–of European students would be proficient or higher. There are other interesting consequences:
South Korea, which scores the highest, would only have three-quarters of its students deemed NAEP proficient.
Japan would only have 54% of its students deemed NAEP proficient or higher.
Finland would only have around thirty percent of its students deemed proficient or higher.
Does anyone really believe these things? Look, maybe students around the world really are that stupid. But then we have a global educational crisis. Or maybe setting a overly high standard isn’t combating the soft bigotry of low expectations but engaging in the fear-mongering of ridiculously high ones.
*In many cases, these classes also apply to those state exams that are based on the Common Core, as they attempt to make the tests as difficult as the NAEP.
Technical note: The standard deviation is 100 for TIMMS. Given the U.S. national average of 509, we would expect around 31% of students to be proficient or higher. According to the NAEP, 34% of students scored proficient or higher, so the general points should hold up.