A report, “International Benchmarking: State Education Performance Standards,” issued by the American Institute for Research in October, compared the benchmarks used to measure proficiency in each state with the benchmarks used to measure proficiency in two international assessments: the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). TIMSS is an assessment of Grades 4 and 8 in mathematics and science; PIRLS is an assessment of Grade 4 in reading. Both are sponsored by the International Association for the Evaluation of Education Achievement. 

The study also estimated the percent of students in each state who would have met an internationally benchmarked standard of “high,” among four benchmarks of low, intermediate, high and advanced. The study says a student meeting the “high” benchmark has the skill and knowledge comparable to the “typical” or “average” student in the highest-achieving countries.  For math, these countries included Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea. For reading, these countries included Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Russian Federation and Canada. 

The study concluded that 36% of Illinois fourth-graders and 29% of Illinois eighth-graders would have met the high standard on TIMSS. This compares with 84% of Illinois fourth-graders and 80% of Illinois eighth-graders who met ISAT standards in math. 

The study concluded that 43% of Illinois fourth-graders would have met a high standard on PIRLS. This compares with 74% of Illinois fourth-graders who met ISAT standards in reading.  

The study says international benchmarking is important, citing a 2008 report by the National Governors Association that concludes, “Governors recognize that new economic realities mean it no longer matters how one U.S. state compares to another on a national test; what matters is how a state’s students compare to those in countries around the globe. America must seize this moment to ensure that we have workers whose knowledge, skills and talents are competitive with the best in the world.” 

The common core state standards recently approved by the Illinois State Board of Education and by many other states are internationally benchmarked. 

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...