Students in Massachusetts are doing great while their peers in Alabama and D.C. are languishing.

It's so common to see studies about the United States's lackluster academic performance compared to other countries, it's barely newsworthy anymore. The American education system, the story goes, is mediocre. A new report from the National Center for Educational Statistics complicates that picture a bit. It attempts to rank how individual states compare internationally, and shows a wide gap between the highest-performing states and the lowest: Massachusetts does quite well against other countries, while Mississippi, Alabama, and the District of Columbia do poorly.

The report evaluates 2011 math and science scores from two sources: the National Assessment of Educational Process, which was administered to eighth graders in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Department of Defense schools; and from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, which evaluated eighth graders in 38 different countries and 9 "subnational entities" (for example, Quebec and Dubai).

Only some states took the TIMMS to create the U.S. score, so for the U.S. states that did not take the TIMSS in 2011, the report used NAEP scores to predict the what the state’s TIMSS scores would have been. The researchers then used these predictions to rank the states against the other educational systems tested by TIMSS.

The average TIMSS score is a 500, and the test uses four benchmarks—low, intermediate, high, and advanced—to describe student scores. In math, two-thirds of U.S. states scored above the TIMSS average.

In science, 47 states scored above the TIMMS average:

Massachusetts and Vermont outperformed 43 educational systems, while the District of Columbia ranked above only 14 educational systems. Singapore was the only education system to outrank all U.S. states.

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    Why New York City Stopped Building Subways

    Nearly 80 years ago, a construction standstill derailed the subway’s progress, leading to its present crisis. This is the story, decade by decade.

  2. Equity

    What Drives the Black-White Wealth Gap?

    A new paper debunks various myths about the wealth gap between blacks and whites in the United States, and the methods for bridging it.

  3. A plain-clothed police officer mans a position behind the counter at the Starbucks that has become the center of protests in Philadelphia.
    Equity

    Suspiciously Black in Starbucks

    Starbucks doesn't need to close its stores for bias trainings. It needs to change its entire design so that it doesn’t merely reflect the character of host neighborhoods, especially if that character is racist.

  4. A sign warns non-resident drivers to avoid using a street in Leonia, New Jersey.
    Transportation

    What Happens When a City Bans Non-Resident Drivers?

    Besieged by commuters taking Waze-powered shortcuts, Leonia, New Jersey, closed its side streets to non-residents. Not everyone is happy with the results.

  5. A large apartment building cleanly divided by a gaping hole in the middle.
    Design

    Dead Brutalist Buildings

    A new show uses photographs of concrete buildings in their final days to argue for their preservation.