More on International School Comparisons by Bob Somerby of Daily Howler

Here is the Howler’s Part 2 analyzing the results of the latest TIMMS and PIRLS international comparisons of 4th and 8th grade students. He makes the point that over and over again, US newspapers and editorial staff keep complaining about how poorly American students do in these international rankings, when the facts are exactly the opposite.

A quote:

Nations outscored in reading by U.S. fourth-graders, 2011 PIRLS (partial list):
Denmark, Croatia, Taiwan, Ireland, England, Canada, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Israel, Portugal, Hungary, Slovak Republic, New Zealand, Slovenia, Austria, Lithuania, Australia, Poland, France, Spain, Norway, Belgium (Flemish region)

Really? American fourth-graders outscored their peers in England, Canada, Germany, France? In Australia, Spain, Italy and Taiwan—and in a host of smaller European nations? 

Would a reader gain any idea of this fact from reading this gloomy AP report? Would that reader ever guess that U.S. fourth-graders were outscored by their peers in only three actual nations, plus Hong Kong and Northern Ireland, even as they kicked the keisters of fourth-graders spanning the globe?

and here is his first article in the series:

Here he presents duelling headlines from different newspapers:

Gloomy headlines about the new scores:
Associated Press, December 11: US students far from first in math, science
New York Times, December 11: U.S. Students Still Lag Globally In Math and Science, Tests Show
Washington Post, December 11: U.S. still trails Asia in student test scores


Upbeat headlines about the new scores:
USA Today, December 11: USA’s schools move up in international rankings
Christian Science Monitor, December 11: How does US compare in math, science, reading? 
Younger students do better 
Two international studies show fourth- and eighth-grade scores in math, science, and reading in 2011. In the US, there’s no cause for alarm, or celebration.


Part 4 from the Daily Howler: Black US students did quite well on TIMMS

This is Bob Somerby’s part 4 on the international academic comparisons of elementary and middle school students.

Much to the utter consternation of the general myths, African-American students in numerous American states beat most other nations’ average scores. Here are the details:


Part 4—Disaggregation and more: American students did surprisingly well on last year’s international tests.

That is especially true in reading, where American fourth-graders, the only grade tested, pretty much kicked the ass of the world. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/19/12.

Why was this performance “surprising?” Let us count two ways:

In part, the performance may seem surprising because so much effort has been made, in recent years, to denigrate American teachers, students and schools. Everybody knows this script—and this script was extended in last week’s reporting about the new test scores.

To its credit, USA Today broke the mold, focusing on some of our students’ surprising success. But in the New York Times, the AP and the Washington Post, gloom and doom prevailed again, just as it has been scripted.

American students did surprisingly well. The American people weren’t told.

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