Ind. 8th-graders outperform most of world in math, science areas


These students are also mostly above the national average.

The study evaluated test scores as recorded in the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. Indiana chose to participate in the study separate from the United States. They also did so in 1999 and 2003, but did not test students in 2007.

There are only six educational systems throughout the world that performed better than Indiana eighth-grade students in math, and only five systems scored better in science.

David Rutkowski, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, is one of the authors of the study. His research focuses on large-scale educational assessment and evaluation.

He said the study shows Indiana schoolchildren have the potential to be competitive in a global economy where jobs are increasingly technical.

“We thought it was rather exciting that Indiana’s education system is competitive in the world,” he said.

People shouldn’t be surprised at these results because Indiana’s school systems are notable, he said. A lot of conversation is focused around struggling schools and doesn’t acknowledge enough of the well-performing schools, he said.

He noted the gender disparity the study found, with boys scoring better than girls by eight points in math. It is important to help all students, regardless of the student’s sex, to achieve higher levels of learning, he said.  

Leslie Rutkowski, assistant professor of inquiry methodology, is another author of the study. She has been performing research with international assessments for a few years. Leslie also said she agrees Indiana education is often seen in a negative light.

“This is some pretty good evidence that public schooling is doing a pretty good job,” she said.

She said Indiana performed better in math than Finland, which she said is often seen as an educational miracle. Educators look to Finland to learn why its students perform so well and then emulate its practices.

“To me, this is kind of a big deal,” she said. “For Indiana to have done so well is really remarkable.”

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