Map & Data Resources

How bleak is U.S. educational performance?

Map & Data Resources | By Minyong Cho |

Nov. 6, 2013 — Students from only a limited number of U.S. states participated in the last round of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), administered to fourth-grade and eighth-grade students in 2011. (Dozens of countries participated in this administration of TIMSS, more of them in connection with fourth-grade students than eighth-grade students. Especially for eighth-grade students, there are relatively few Western European participants. Click here for a full list of participating countries at each grade level.)

Countries participated in both fourth- and eighth-grade testing except where noted.


  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Austria, 4th-grade only
  • Azerbaijan, 4th-grade only
  • Bahrain
  • Belgium, 4th-grade only
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • China
  • Croatia, 4th-grade only
  • Czech Republic, 4th-grade only
  • Denmark, 4th-grade only
  • England
  • Finland
  • Georgia
  • Germany, 4th-grade only
  • Ghana, 8th-grade only
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Indonesia, 8th-grade only
  • Iran
  • Ireland, 4th-grade only
  • Israel, 8th-grade only
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Jordan, 8th-grade only
  • Kazakhstan
  • Korea, South
  • Kuwait, 4th-grade only
  • Lebanon, 8th-grade only
  • Lithuania
  • Macedonia, 8th-grade only
  • Malaysia, 8th-grade only
  • Malta, 4th-grade only
  • Morocco
  • Netherlands, 4th-grade only
  • New Zealand
  • Northern Ireland, 4th-grade only
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Palestinian National Authority, 8th-grade only
  • Poland, 4th-grade only
  • Portugal, 4th-grade only
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Serbia, 4th-grade only
  • Singapore
  • Slovak Republic, 4th-grade only
  • Slovenia
  • Spain, 4th-grade only
  • Sweden
  • Syria, 8th-grade only
  • Thailand
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine, 8th-grade only
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States
  • Yemen, 4th-grade only


On the other hand, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests are conducted in each state. A recent National Center for Educational Statistics study attempted to translate NAEP scores into TIMSS scores. The study found that average performance on a standardized fourth- and eighth-grade science and math test was better in many U.S. states than the international average.

We decided to go back to the original TIMSS results and only look at those students from states, the United States overall, and other countries that actually participated in TIMSS. We were interested in creating a tool that allowed easy comparison between and among racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., alongside international comparisons. We also wanted to make sure that the results could be visualized at the different performance “bands.” TIMSS is reported on a scale of 0 to 1,000, with 500 set as the average score and standard deviation at 100. “Below low” represents students scoring less than 400; “low” represents students scoring from 400 to 474; “intermediate” represents students scoring from 475 to 549; “high” represents students scoring from 550 to 624; and “advanced” represents students scoring 625 or above. Click here for more information on what kind of achievement is demonstrated by each performance band.

For the visualization on this page, select a performance level, grade, and subject. Note: in the “below low” category,” the international maximum is, literally, off the chart. Hover over the bar with your cursor to see the exact percentage of students.

We also wanted to dig down into state-level performance. See the visualization on the next page.





Request to republish
Send a letter to the editor