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The Missing Link



From: Adam Kernan-Schloss (adam@ksaplus.com)
Date: Tue Dec 05 2000 - 14:29:47 EST

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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.


    Adam Kernan-Schloss

         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
         participate: http://nces.ed.gov/statchat/index2.asp
         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 pipeline."

    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
    TIMSS (1995).

    "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
    course enrichment."

    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 &
    Improvement (OERI).

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              U.S. Department of Education

    Adam Kernan-Schloss

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