While Maryland's school system has had the top spot in a publication's annual ranking of the nation's schools for five years in a row, the state is far from the top of a new report comparing eighth-graders in the United States with other states and 38 other countries.
Massachusetts was the only state to score in a top rating in math in the study being released Thursday by the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics. Only eight -states - Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin - scored in a top rating for science.
Researchers took eighth-grade test results in math and science from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to predict performance on the international comparative study test known as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Nine states participated directly in TIMSS. NAEP includes scores of students tested with accommodations, while TIMSS does not. Statistical modeling was used to make up for the difference.
The National Center for Education Statistics says this is the first report that compares every state, the District of Columbia and Defense Department schools against 38 countries. China, India, France and Germany did not participate.
The scores were ranked on a scale of 1,000. In math, the average state scores ranged from 466 for Alabama to 561 for Massachusetts. Maryland's average score for math was 514. In science, the average state scores ranged 435 for the District of Columbia to 561 for Massachusetts. Maryland's average score for science was 528.
For the 36 states that had scores above the TIMSS scale average of 500 in math, there was wide variation in the percentages of students that reached the high benchmark. The percentages ranged from 29 percent in Arkansas to 57 percent in Massachusetts. Maryland had 34 percent of its students reach the high benchmark.
For the 47 states that had average scores above the TIMSS average, there also was wide variation in the percentages of students that reached the high benchmark. The percentages ranged from 31 percent in Hawaii to 61 percent in Massachusetts. Maryland had 42 percent of its students reach the high benchmark.
South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan were the top scorers in math, followed by Massachusetts, Vermont, Minnesota, New Jersey and New Hampshire. For science, Singapore also was the top scorer, followed by Massachusetts and Vermont. South Korea, Japan, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Maine and Minnesota were in the top 10 for science.
William Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education, said while the study can be used to help inform how the state's school system moves forward, it does not provide the detailed assessments that Maryland school officials believe the Common Core State Standards will provide.
Maryland is transitioning to adopt more rigorous academic standards through what is known as the Common Core State Standards in reading/English language arts and mathematics. The standards form the foundation of Maryland's new state curriculum framework. The new state curriculum framework was implemented this year and local school systems are using it right now.
"We don't draw conclusions from studies like this,'' Reinhard said. "What we do is use it to inform practices and help us look at where we might be going next.''
Reinhard noted that Maryland's school system has been ranked No. 1 for five years in a row in Education Week's annual ranking of the nation's school systems. The report released by the National Center for Education Statistics only examines eighth-graders.
"The middle school area is where we have the most challenges,'' Reinhard said.