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Colorado 8th graders beat international science, math scores

By: KRISTINA IODICE
December 11, 2012
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photo - Jerri Marr, with the U.S. Forest Service, speaks to a group of middle school girls participating in the STEM program at UCCS on Thursday, October 12, 2012.  Photo by JERILEE BENNETT/The Gazette file
Jerri Marr, with the U.S. Forest Service, speaks to a group of middle school girls participating in the STEM program at UCCS on Thursday, October 12, 2012. Photo by JERILEE BENNETT/The Gazette file 

Colorado eighth-graders can more than hold their own against peers across the nation and the world, the Colorado Department of Education reported Tuesday.

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) results released from the National Center for Education Statistics show Colorado students performed above international and national averages in science and above international and with national counterparts in mathematics.

There’s room to improve, however. The average math scores of Korea, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong and Japan, as well as Massachusetts were significantly higher than Colorado’s average scores for both science and mathematics.

Although a little surprised that Colorado students did so well, the strong performance is a reflection of classrooms that increasingly focus on science and math, said Dave Khaliqi, director of the UCCS Center for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education.

“Teachers are provided with more opportunities and they are taking advantage of those,” he said.

Some things take time to show results, but there has been an increased focus on math, science and related subjects in the last five to eight years, Khaliqi said.

“There’s a big push for STEM-focused schools and programs,” he said. “There’s a range of things happening.”

Districts are contributing more to the efforts of teachers, he said. Regular assessments beyond standardized testing have held schools accountable for results.

“I see it continuing and maybe expanding into other focus areas,” Khaliqi said.

The state was one of 16 systems that had higher percentages of eighth-graders reaching the Advanced TIMSS international math and science benchmarks than the U.S.

TIMSS isn’t the only test to show that things are working. The far more extensive National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has shown that Colorado students have steadily improved in math and science, Khaliqi said.

More positive change is expected as the next generation of national standards are put into place, he said.

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Overview

The 2011 TIMSS was given to eighth graders in 38 countries and 18 education systems, including Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota and North Carolina. National Center for Education Statistics under the U.S. Department of Education covered costs for all states except Florida.

In Colorado, students in 53 schools were tested. Details are not released to protect the integrity of the results.

The next TIMSS is scheduled for 2015, although Colorado’s participation is not yet decided.

A look at numbers

Colorado was one of 16 systems that had higher percentages of eighth-graders reaching the Advanced TIMMS international math and science benchmarks than the U.S.

• Science — Colorado’s average score of 542 is in the top third of all those tested and above the U.S. average of 525. Thirty-nine of the countries and education systems scored lower than Colorado, and six scored higher.

• Math — Colorado’s average score of 518 topped the international average of 500 and the U.S. average of 509. Colorado topped 36 countries and education systems in math scores, and scored lower than 10.

Contact Kristina Iodice: 636-0162 Twitter @GazetteKristina Facebook Kristina Iodice

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