Saturday, December 15, 2012




The latest international assessments of student performance -- the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) -- “provide both encouraging news about American students’ progress and…cautionary notes.” On the one hand, U.S. fourth-grade students have made significant progress in reading and math from 2007 to 2011. Indeed, U.S. fourth-graders now rank among the world’s leaders in reading literacy, and their achievement in math is only surpassed, on average, in three countries. On the other hand, the learning gains in fourth-grade are not being sustained in eighth-grade, where math and science achievement failed to significantly improve in the last five years. There are also large and persistent achievement gaps. Notably, Florida participated as a separate system in PIRLS in 2011, and nine states participated as separate systems in TIMSS in 2011. So, for the first time, parents and policymakers have data to gauge how academic performance in a substantial subset of states compares with the U.S. as a whole and with international competitors. Students in Florida, Massachusetts, and North Carolina excelled internationally in a number of subject areas. FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE GO TO AND (Note: Secretary Duncan’s statement on the assessment results is available at, while his recent blog entry on the results is available at

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