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Fact check: Are U.S. students falling behind foreign students?

October 22, 2012|By Howard Blume
  • President Obama debates with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.
President Obama debates with Republican presidential candidate Mitt… (Mark Wilson / Getty Images )

In arguing for the hiring of more math and science teachers, which President Obama said he intends to do, he said the U.S. has fallen behind in math and science.

This is a complicated issue.

U.S. students in many states have posted relatively stagnant scores on such measures as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. U.S. students also have fallen back compared with some nations on tests that are administered to samples of students around the world. Some experts say what happened is that other nations have caught up and passed the U.S. academically.

At the same time, critics have challenged the relevance of some of these international measures. It’s also true that America takes on the challenge of educating all children in a way that few other countries have aspired to do. And the nation’s higher education system attracts students from around the world.

Also, American students have made progress overall on tests administered by states. Despite the general rise of all scores, achievement gaps that separate white and Asian students from low-income, black and Latino students have remained in place.

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