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State students fare well in international testing match up

Published 10:15 am, Monday, December 9, 2013
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If Connecticut were a nation, it would rank among the top 10 in the world for reading and the top 20 for science.

So says a new international study that for the first time, ranks public school 15-year-olds from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Florida along with 65 nations in math, reading and science.

The Program for International Student Assessments shows that while scores in the United States remain fairly stagnant in all three subjects, Connecticut's scores were higher than the U.S. average on all three tests, and statistically higher than the average global scores in science and reading. Connecticut's math score was not statistically better than the world average, officials said.

NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley said he is not surprised by the findings, which were released by the National Center for Education Statistics.

"Connecticut performed right about where I expected they would -- higher than the U.S. average," Buckley said. "No surprises there."

But the $600,000 the state paid to participate in the program could surprise some. Buckley said the state education commissioner or the governor volunteered to take part in the testing. As a result, Connecticut will get access to extra data, Buckley said.

In Connecticut, 1,697 students across 50 schools took the test in the fall of 2012, according to the report. Stefan Pryor, the state Commissioner of Education, said the test helped measure state students in a global context.

"Connecticut is competitive internationally, performing especially well in reading and science," Pryor said. "At the same time, we must advance efforts to close our achievement gaps, strengthen our math results, and ensure that all students are well positioned for success in 21st century careers."

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy also seemed to think the cost was worth it.

"These results are proof that our teachers are doing an excellent job of preparing our young people to succeed in a global economy," Malloy said in a prepared statement. "While there is still much work to be done to level the playing field, we clearly have a solid foundation to build upon."

Overall, the test results, which were based on a 1,000-point scale, show:

- In science, Connecticut students' average score was 521, better than the U.S. average of 497 and the world average of 501. In Connecticut, 13 percent of 15-year-olds, typically high school sophomores, were considered top performers, compared to 7 percent in the United States and 8 percent worldwide.

- In reading, Connecticut students' average score of 521 was better than the U.S. average of 498 and the world average of 496. Some 15 percent of Connecticut's 15-year-olds scored in the "top performer" range compared to 8 percent in the U.S. and worldwide.

- In math, Connecticut students' average score of 506 was higher than the U.S. average of 481, but not statistically better than the world average of 494, officials said.

Internationally, Shanghai, China -- the only part of mainland China to participate -- scored the highest overall with a 613 in math, a 580 in science and a 570 in reading. By comparison, the U.S. averaged 498 in reading, 497 in science and 481 in math.

Among the U.S. states that participated, Massachusetts fared the best in all three subjects, while Connecticut finished second and Florida was third.

Because the U.S. scores were not measurably different from 2009, the last time the test was given, other nations -- such as Ireland and Poland -- surpassed the U.S. in 2012, Buckley said.