To be competitive in the 21st century, American students must have the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and in the knowledge-based economy. Today, students are no longer just competing with their peers from other states but with students from across the globe.
What is International Benchmarking?
In education, international benchmarking typically refers to analyzing high-performing education systems and identifying ways to improve our own systems based on those findings. One of the main ways to identify high-performing education systems is through international assessments, particularly the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Consistent high-performers include countries like Singapore, Finland, Korea, Canada and Japan. International benchmarking is important from a national perspective to ensure our long-term economic competitiveness. Many feel it is necessary for American students to be held to the same academic expectations as students in other countries. The successes of other nations can provide potential guidance for decision-making in the United States.
Achieve’s International Science Benchmarking
In 2010 Achieve completed an international benchmarking study of ten countries’ science standards– selected based on their strong performance on international assessments and/or special interest to the United States– for the purpose of informing the development of the NRC Framework and the Next Generation Science Standards. Click on the links to the right to read the full report or highlights. Major findings were as follows:
- All ten countries have integrated science standards rather than grade-level, subject-specific courses in grades 6-9/10.
- Physical science standards (chemistry and physics content) receive the most emphasis.
- Life science standards focus on human biology and relationships among living things that highlights the personal and social significance of life science.
- Crosscutting content common to all of the sciences, such as the nature of science receives considerable attention.
In addition, Achieve identified exemplary features in the country’s standards worthy of emulation. These include:
- Using unifying ideas to provide focus and coherence and a way to pare content
- Providing multiple examples to make expectations for students concrete and transparent
- Making meaningful connections to assessment to maintain focus on raising student achievement (Click on the following hyperlink to read the report – Connecting Science Standards with Assessment: A snapshot of three Countries ‘ Approaches-England, Hong Kong and Canada (Ontario))
- Attending to organization and format has a significant effect on the clarity and accessibility of standards
- Developing students’ ability in planning and carrying out investigations to nurture scientific habits of mind and engagement
- Making science accessible to all student populations by providing specific guidance for sub-populations
Read the full report online here.