International Study Shows Utah Students Competetive in STEM Subjects

Oct 25, 2013

The National Center for Education Statistics has released a new study synthesizing test scores from across the globe. The study looked at how eighth graders from the United States and 38 other countries scored in math and science.

Utah was one of 47 states to score above the international average in science.
Utah was one of 47 states to score above the international average in science.
Credit National Center for Education Statistics

Researchers compared U.S. scores on the NAEP test with international scores on the TIMSS test. U.S. states and foreign countries were then rated on a scale of 0 to 1000, with 500 being the international average.

Utah scored above average in both math and science. In science, Utah’s eighth graders were only topped by students in four other countries.

“In science, Utah did exceptionally well…In math we scored a 510, which is still above the international average and it’s still average in the U.S., but it is not as good as our science scores,” Utah State Office of Education spokesperson Mark Peterson explained.

Nationally, 36 states scored above average in math and 47 scored above 500 in science.

“This is math and science, so these are in fact the STEM subjects, so this is very good news for Utah,” Peterson said.

Though the study appears to go against the common conception that U.S. students are falling behind their international peers in STEM subjects, Jack Buckley from the National Center for Education Statistics says U.S. students continue to score lower than international students, but do not tend to do so until later in their education.

“Most of the evidence cited for the U.S. falling behind is usually at the 15-year-old level...It’s not so much that the U.S. is falling behind but that our economic partners are actually moving ahead at a faster rate,” Buckley said.

Buckley added that the new data will be particularly helpful for states that want to know where their students stack up on the international level.

The next time the scores will be compared is 2015.