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Since 1960, there have been five major international studies of science and mathematics achievement at the elementary, middle, and secondary school levels. The studies have been conducted under the auspices of two different nongovernmental research consortia. More than 30 countries have participated in at least one of the surveys. The United States has been involved in every one.
US Ranks
1st Math study (mid 60's) 10-11
2nd Math study (c. 1987) 10-18
3rd Math study (c. 1999) 12-19
1st Science study ('66-'73) 4-14
2nd Science study (c. 1988) 8-14
3rd Science study (c. 1999) 3-17

Students from the United States have not performed very well on any international achievement study. At the same time, the reality is somewhat less clear than the picture that has been conveyed in the media. Generally, across the surveys, younger American students seem to perform better, relative to their international peers, than those enrolled in the last year of secondary school.

International Mathematics and Science Assessment: What Have We Learned?, 1992 at the Center for Education Statistics.

Academic Failure - International Test Scores - Poor TIMSS Results
Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) Wikipedia

2009 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results:

  USA Rank (out of 74 countries)
Math    31
Science 23
Reading 17
Source: PISA results for 2009 Wikipedia

2008 results:
The two younger age groups (9- and 13-year-olds) participating in NAEP Long-Term Trend tests in 2008 had higher average mathematics scores than their 1973 peers had, but performance among 17-year-olds was flat.

Relatively large score increases among 9-year-olds occurred during the 1980s and early 2000s, while 13-year-olds had steadier (but less steep) gains over the 35 years. In each age group, black students narrowed the gaps with whites first observed in 1973.
Source: nsf.gov - S&E Indicators 2010 - Chapter 1. Elementary and Secondary Mathematics and Science Education - Highlights - US National Science Foundation (NSF)

Scores on Science Test Causing Concern in U.S., 2008, WashingtonPost.com

World education rankings: reading, math and science? | guardian.co.uk

last updated 27 Oct 2010