Sunday, April 26, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Students hold their own in math, science

TomEliasW

By
From page A6 | December 18, 2013 |

Maybe it’s time to stop the steady stream of hand-wringing over how poorly America’s schoolkids, and California’s in particular, perform in subjects like math and science and realize they are actually doing OK, even if there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

That’s the takeaway from 2011 test scores in the Trends in International Math and Science Study, an exam given by some states and 46 other countries and provinces. The 2011 results, latest available, were released earlier this fall. (Because only nine states administered the actual TIMSS tests, researchers at the National Center for Education Statistics used data from other tests to compare.)

They show American public school students have some way to go in catching up with students in several other countries, but are far ahead of students in many others. Yes, American kids trail those in Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Israel, Russia and Finland, but they are above average and ahead of their counterparts in England, Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden and Thailand, to name just a few. (http://nces.ed.gov/timss)

California public schoolers are just a tad behind the American average, trailing England and New Zealand, but ahead of Sweden, Norway, Ukraine, Turkey and Chile, to name a few, on the tests given to kids in the fourth and eighth grades.

Two factors make the California scores seem lower than they probably should: The huge number of English learners in this state’s schools and the large percentage of California kids attending private and parochial schools. English learners are at a disadvantage when taking tests administered in English — and 23.2 percent of California public school students in 2011 were English learners — while many nonpublic schools don’t bother with some standardized tests, often administering only the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam.

Fully 8.7 percent of all California schoolkids attend non-public schools, where tuition can range above $30,000. That means results of the state’s standardized testing often don’t include the children of the state’s wealthiest and best-educated adults. This skews average test scores downward sharply, even if no one can say exactly how much.

Meanwhile, all kids in the other countries using the TIMSS tests actually take them. So California’s score of 493 on TIMSS, compared with an international average of 500, is misleading for sure. It leaves out kids who will go on to establish businesses like Google and the Internet real estate firm Zillow, for just two examples of international companies founded by people who attended private elementary or high schools in California.

Meanwhile, the profusion of English learners in California public schools, almost all children of parents who can’t come close to affording private school tuition, drags California scores down. These are not dumb kids, but studies have shown repeatedly that children taking time-limited tests are at a disadvantage if the tests are administered in languages other than what they speak at home.

More than one-third of California kids taking the TIMSS-related tests speak a language other than English at home. State Department of Education figures from 2011, the year of the TIMSS comparisons: 1.4 million California public school students were classified as English learners (23.2 percent of all pupils) and 2.3 million spoke a language other than English at home (37.4 percent of all pupils).

Considering which students are skimmed from the top before California kids even take these tests, while many thousands of others are at a great disadvantage, the California scores don’t look so bad.

Yes, they trail the numbers from Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maryland, Colorado and Connecticut, to name a few high-performing states that score well above the worldwide average, but those places have nowhere near as many English learners as California.

Meanwhile, states with almost as high a percentage of English learners — like Texas — scored below California.

All of which suggests that California public schools are doing some things right — to get a student populace with high proportions of immigrants’ kids who are not up to par in English performing almost at the international average is no mean feat.

At the same time, there’s plenty of work to do: Those English learners must be brought up to speed as quickly as possible so they can compete for jobs when they emerge from school. But none of this suggests an academic doomsday is approaching, as many detractors of public education often imply.

— Reach syndicated columnist Tom Elias at [email protected]

Comments

comments

.

News

 
 
Davis team wins world robotics championship

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Nepal quake death toll exceeds 1,800

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

Spring storm delivers late rain, snow to Northern California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
At the Pond: Plenty of pleasures in our bioregion

By Jean Jackman | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Rail-safety bill passes Senate committee

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Free Family Bike Clinic set Sunday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Pioneering organic chef presents her memoir Monday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Suspect in UCD assault arrested

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A4

Dog park marks anniversary with cleanup

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Watch them in action

By Julia Ann Easley | From Page: A5

Stocks rise on tech earnings; Nasdaq adds to record

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
Dodd speaks as part of public policy series

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

We did it (together)!

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10

 
$2.72 million judgment ordered against Dollar Tree Stores

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

UCD hosts bike auction Saturday, May 2

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Fly Fishers to hear about advanced streamer tactics on Tuesday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

Bicycle activist will speak Monday at Hall of Fame

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
.

Forum

Those texts still linger

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B6

 
New ways of giving locally and beyond

By Marion Franck | From Page: B6

 
Study questions accuracy of tumor gene mapping

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A12

 
Poker proceeds help youths

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12

Invest in water of the future

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12

 
Water, water everywhere?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12

Mayor’s Corner: A spirit of renewal permeates Davis

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

 
More work to do for a safe Picnic Day

By Our View | From Page: A12

Anaheim, where The Force is with you

By Sebastian Onate | From Page: A13 | Gallery

 
.

Sports

Davis gets two baseball wins in two days

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1

 
Grizzlies dominate young Blue Devils on Senior Night

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Energy, fan-friendly happenings highlight UCD spring football game

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Blue Devil golfers capture CAL Invitational title

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

UCD roundup: Aggies reach water polo semifinals

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

 
Blue Devil swimmers are up to the challenge

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Babich brings the heat as DHS girls stick it to Oak Ridge

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12 | Gallery

 
DHS softball struggles continue against Sheldon

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12 | Gallery

.

Features

.

Arts

History comes alive in ‘The Sacramento Picture’

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
.

Business

Yolo County real estate sales

By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A7

 
Big Italian food, sports bar to fill Little Prague

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A7 | Gallery

Davis Roots hires new general manager

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
Comcast announces speed upgrade

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
.

Obituaries

 
Whitney Joy Engler

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

Valente Forrest Dolcini

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

 
.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, April 26, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B8