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I thought Missing Link viewers would be interested in the findings from the
latest TIMSS tests, released today. As you know, findings from the first
TIMSS study formed the foundation for this middle school math series.
U.S. 8th-GRADERS ARE ABOVE the international average in math &
science performance, according to the Third International
Mathematics & Science Study-Repeat (TIMSS-R).
This is among the findings in a report released today by the
Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
Highlights of the report & the *full* report -- "Pursuing
Excellence: Comparisons of International Eighth-Grade
Mathematics & Science Achievement from a U.S. Perspective,
1995 & 1999" -- are at:
Below is the Department's press release.
Note: This report provides initial findings from the Third
International Mathematics & Science Study-Repeat (TIMSS-R), a
successor to TIMSS 1995. It presents findings on the
performance of 8th-grade students in math & science in 1999,
as well as changes in math & science achievement in
participating nations between 1995 & 1999. It also discusses
initial findings on education-related contextual factors
related to teaching & curricula in 1999.
--> As reported in Friday's ED Initiatives, NCES is hosting a
StatChat Live event on the report today at 2:00 p.m. ET.
Co-hosting this chat are Gary Phillips, Acting Commissioner,
NCES, &, Judith Sunley, Interim Assistant Director for
Education & Human Resources, NSF. You are invited to
Questions can be pre-submitted now, or join the live
discussion beginning at 2:00.
U.S. Eighth Graders Above International
Average in Math, Science (December 5, 2000)
Compared with students in 37 other participating nations, U.S.
eighth-grade students are above the international average in
mathematics & science performance, according to the Third
International Mathematics & Science Study-Repeat (TIMSS-R).
"Our students are successfully learning more math & science every
year they're in school," said U.S. Secretary of Education Richard
W. Riley, "but we can do even better. For example, the Glenn
Commission gave us some very significant, bold steps we can take in
the teaching of math & science from elementary through high school,
ranging from improving the professional development of K-12
teachers, to widening the pipeline of people going into math &
science teaching, to retaining those teachers once we get them in
The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education
Statistics (NCES) released the results today in a report entitled
"Pursuing Excellence: Comparisons of International Eighth-Grade
Mathematics & Science Achievement from a U.S. Perspective, 1995 &
1999." The study, sponsored by NCES & the National Science
Foundation (NSF) in the United States & by the International
Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA),
assessed eighth-graders' knowledge of mathematics & science in 38
nations. It follows up on the Third International Mathematics &
Science Study conducted in 1995.
In 1999, for mathematics, U.S. students performed better than the
international average in fractions & number sense; data
representation, analysis, & probability; & algebra. They performed
at the international average in measurement & geometry.
In science, the average score of U.S. eighth-graders was higher
than the international average in earth science; life science;
chemistry; environmental & resource issues; & scientific inquiry &
the nature of science. U.S. eighth-graders performed at the
international average in physics.
The performance of U.S. eighth-graders in mathematics & science was
about the same in 1999 as in 1995.
Because its predecessor study TIMSS reported on fourth-graders,
TIMSS-R offers a unique opportunity to compare the performance of
fourth-graders in 1995 with the performance of eighth-graders in
1999. The results indicate that the relative performance for
eighth-grade students in mathematics & science was lower in TIMSS-R
(1999) than it was for fourth-grade students four years earlier in
"This finding validates the results of the previous 1995 study that
after the fourth-grade, students in the United States fall behind
their international peers as they pass through the school system,"
notes Dr. Gary Phillips, acting commissioner of education
statistics. "The lack of improvement is consistent with findings
from recent administrations of the Long Term Trend assessment from
the National Assessment of Educational Progress. However, over a
much longer time span there have been improvements in the U.S. in
both math & science." Riley added that four years may not be
enough time to register the effectiveness of education reforms.
TIMSS-R also examined the performance of different groups of U.S.
students & their performance. Those findings show no evidence of a
difference between eighth-grade girls & boys in mathematics in
1999, although boys performed better than girls in science.
African-American students increased their achievement in
mathematics from 1995 to 1999, but not in science. There was
little change in the performance of white or Hispanic students in
mathematics or science, although white students continue to score
higher in both subjects than black or Hispanic students.
In addition to measuring student performance in mathematics &
science, the TIMSS-R study also looked at students' study habits &
activities in the classroom & at teachers' instructional practices,
academic & professional preparation, & beliefs about their teaching
abilities. Findings indicate that:
* U.S. eighth-grade students were more likely than students in
other nations to be taught by teachers who majored in
education, as likely as others to be taught by teachers who
majored in mathematics education, & less likely than their
international peers to be taught mathematics by teachers who
majored in mathematics.
* U.S. eighth-grade students were more likely to be taught by a
science teacher with a degree in education, as likely as their
international peers to be taught science by teachers with a
college major or main area of student in biology, chemistry or
science education, & less likely to be taught science by
teachers with a degree in physics.
"It's apparent," Riley said, "that we need to make a major
investment in upgrading teacher skills in math, science & other
subjects. That's something we can do immediately. Our new
education budget - which we are hoping the Congress will pass later
this week - includes funding for smaller classes to start kids off
right, recruitment & preparation of teachers, upgrading the skills
of the current teaching force, GEAR-UP to prepare more students for
college, & after-school programs to provide students with increased
In both mathematics & science, U.S. students reported more often
than students in other nations that they use class time to begin
homework. Seventy-four percent of U.S. eighth-grade mathematics
students reported often beginning homework in class compared to the
international average of 42%; 57% of science students reported
often beginning homework compared to the international average of
Acting Commissioner Phillips commented that "TIMSS-R is a learning
experience that points to our nation's strengths & challenges, &
provides us with an international perspective on possible reasons
for differences in academic achievement." He noted that today's
report shows only the initial findings from a more complex study.
Next year NCES will release three additional reports covering a
classroom video study in 7 nations, a benchmarking study which
reports on the relative performance of 13 states & 14 school
districts in the United States, & a linking study between the
National Assessment of Educational Progress & TIMSS-R.
The Third International Mathematics & Science Study-Repeat (TIMSS-R)
examines information on mathematics & science achievement,
schooling, curricula, instruction, & the lives of teachers &
students from 38 nations. TIMSS-R continues the tradition of U.S.
participation in international comparative education studies and,
most importantly, allows the United States to chart trends in
eighth-grade mathematics & science achievement in an international
context over time. TIMSS-R is a collaborative effort by the
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the National
Science Foundation (NSF) & the Office of Educational Research &
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