Being comparable to Singapore is “quite the achievement,” said Michael O. Martin, the other executive director of the center, who chalked up some of the state’s success to having a challenging curriculums in math and science.
The results for Massachusetts mirror strong performance on several national exams, such as the SATs, in math and science.
In spite of this success, surveys from the College Board, which administers the SAT, have shown that Massachusetts students are less likely to pursue careers in math and sciences than their peers nationwide.
That dichotomy has prompted the state to spend millions of dollars to revamp science and math instruction so it is more relevant to students’ lives and to try to entice students into those fields through mentoring, internships, and tours of local companies.
The TIMSS, which also surveys teachers and students about their educational experiences, paints a picture of a state that places a premium on high achievement and academic rigor.
Massachusetts has one of the most educated teaching forces in the world: 88 percent of science teachers have completed postgraduate degrees, and 75 percent of math teachers have received those credentials, more than three times the international average and notably higher than the US average of 62 percent.
Many Massachusetts students also leave school each day for homes that have among the highest percentage of educational resources: books, an Internet connection, and private bedrooms that can reduce distraction from study.
Students here have higher expectations for themselves than their peers in most other countries. For instance, 85 percent of Massachusetts students expect to receive a university degree.
“Our teaching force is top notch, and we have set high expectations for student learning in Massachusetts,” Chester said. “That is part of our formula for success.”