Findings Show School Jurisdictions in Illinois, Michigan and Colorado
Rival High Performers Internationally
WASHINGTON, DC (4-4-01) Eighth grade students of the Naperville
School District and the First in the World Consortium (both in Illinois),
the Michigan Invitational Group and the Academy School District (Colorado)
all had average achievement in science comparable to the highest-performing
countries participating in the 1999 Third International Mathematics
and Science Study (TIMSS), according to the latest TIMSS report released
today by the Boston College International Study Center at a news conference
in Washington, DC.
In mathematics, eighth grade students in the Naperville School District
and First in the World Consortium also performed at a very high level,
though not comparable to the top three international performers.
At the other end of the continuum, in both mathematics and science,
urban districts with high percentages of students from low-income families
and minorities performed similarly to lower-performing countries in
TIMSS-1999, but significantly higher than the lowest-peforming countries,
according to the new report, "TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking: A Bridge
to School Improvement."
The report outlines the results of a voluntary U.S. benchmarking component
of TIMSS-1999 (or TIMSS-Repeat), a second TIMSS assessment conducted
at the eighth grade level to measure trends in math and science achievement.
The results of TIMSS-1999, released in December 2000, showed Asian countries
dominating in both mathematics and science performance at the eighth
grade level, with U.S. eighth graders about at the middle of the achievement
distribution of the 38 participating countries.
Twenty-seven jurisdictions from across the nation participated in TIMSS-Benchmarking.
The 13 participating states were Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana,
Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas. The 14 participating districts
and consortia include: Academy School District #20 (CO); Delaware Science
Coalition (DE); Miami-Dade County Public Schools (FL); Chicago Public
Schools, First in the World Consortium, and Naperville School District
#203 (IL); Montgomery County (MD); Michigan Invitational Group (MI);
Guilford County (NC); Fremont/Lincoln/Westside Public Schools (NE);
Jersey City Public Schools (NJ); Rochester City School District (NY);
Project SMART Consortium (OH); and Southwest Pennsylvania Math and Science
The new report offers these participants an unprecedented opportunity
to assess the comparative international standing of their students'
achievements and to evaluate their math and science programs in an international
context. Among the findings:
- Average performance in mathematics for the 13 Benchmarking states
was generally clustered in the middle of the international distribution
of results for the 38 countries. In mathematics, all of the Benchmarking
states performed either significantly above or similar to the international
average, yet signficantly below the five high-performing Asian countries.
- In science, performance for the 13 states was relatively better
than in mathematics, with performance clustered in the upper half
of the international distribution. All but three states performed
significantly above the international average.
- In mathematics, students in the Benchmarking jurisdictions generally
followed the national pattern of doing relatively less well in measurement
and geometry than in fractions and number sense, data representation
and algebra. Similarly, they tended to perform relatively less well
in physics than in the other science content areas.
The new report not only benchmarks mathematics and science achievement,
but also provides a wealth of information on teacher preparation, instructional
time and emphases, and disparities in opportunities to learn. Key findings
- Results varied dramatically across the Benchmarking jurisdication
concerning the percentages of students taught by mathematics majors,
but there was more consistency in the high percentages taught by teachers
with education majors. This pattern was the reverse of that found
for the five high-performing Asian countries. A similar pattern was
found in science, but the picture is complicated by the fact that
teachers can major in different science subjects e.g., biology,
physics, or chemistry.
- Across the Benchmarking entities, the smallest percentage of students
with teachers who felt "very well prepared" to teach mathematics
was 75 percent compared to the international average of 63
percent and the overall U.S. average of 87 percent. Teachers were
less confident in their preparations to teach science. Just 27 percent
in the U.S. felt "very well prepared," with a range across
Benchmarking jurisdictions from 56-14 percent.
Instructional Times and Emphases
- U.S. eighth-graders overall have more hours of instructional time
in math and science than students internationally, though teachers
in high-performing Naperville and the First in the World Consortium
as well as in Korea reported comparatively less amounts of instructional
time than many of the other TIMSS participants.
- In Japan and Korea, more than half of the students were in math
and science classes that never had interruptions for announcements
or administrative tasks. Among Benchmarking participants, the highest
percentage of eighth graders in such classes was in Naperville, but
it was only 22 percent for mathematics and 30 percent for science.
- Benchmarking participants and the U.S. overall reported devoting
an unusually large amount of class time to working on homework, particularly
in math. Compared to 42 percent internationally, 74 percent of the
U.S. eighth graders reported 'almost always' or 'pretty often' beginning
homework in math class. This figure ranged from 43 to 90 percent across
- The Benchmarking data show higher math achievement when teachers
emphasize reasoning/problem solving activities. This emphasis varied
dramatically across Benchmarking participants. At the top end, 41-46
percent of students in Jersey City, First in the World Consortium
and Michigan Invitational Group had teachers who reported a high degree
- Higher science achievement was related to the emphasis teachers
place on experiments or practical investigations. There was great
variation among Benchmarking participants in the percent of students
in science classes with a high degree of emphasis on scientific investigation,
from 79 percent in Naperville, more than in any TIMSS 1999 country,
to 17 percent in the Delaware Science Coalition.
In general, TIMSS-Benchmarking provides evidence that some U.S. schools
are among the best in the world, but that a world-class education is
not available to all children, according to Dr. Michael O. Martin and
Dr. Ina V.S. Mullis, co-directors of the International Study Center
at Boston College.
"Benchmarking jurisdictions with more students from homes with
high levels of educational resources were among the top-achievers in
TIMSS 1999, and those with the lowest achievement were four urban districts
that also had the lowest percentages of students with high levels of
home educational resources," said Mullis. "These results go
hand in hand with extensive research showing that students in urban
districts also often attend schools with fewer resources than in non-urban
districts, including a less challenging curriculum and an atmosphere
less conducive to learning."
"TIMSS reminds us that there is no 'magic bullet' or single factor
that is the answer to higher achievement in mathematics or science,"
added Martin. "It is clear from the TIMSS results that improving
students' opportunities to learn requires examining every aspect of
the educational system, including the curriculum, teacher quality, availability
of resources, students' motivation, instructional effectiveness, parental
support, and school safety."
The largest international study of student achievement ever undertaken,
TIMSS is a collaborative research project sponsored by the International
Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA)
and directed by the International Study
Center in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. Researchers
and educators from more than 40 research organizations in countries
around the world collaborated in the design, development, and implementation
of this enormous comparative achievement study, which is supported by
the U.S. National Center for Education
Statistics, the National Science Foundation,
and the World Bank, among other organizations. Since it began in 1995,
TIMSS has provided initial assessments of five grade levels, involving
half a million students across more than 40 countries. Previous TIMSS
results were released at Boston College in 1996 (7th and 8th grade levels),
1997 (3rd and 4th grade levels), 1998 (final year of secondary school
12th grade or equivalent) and 2000 (TIMSS-Repeat at the eighth
Countries participating in the TIMSS-R in 1999 were: Australia, Belgium
(Flemish), Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Cyprus, Czech Republic,
England, Finland, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, Indonesia, Islamic Republic
of Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Latvia (LSS),
Lithuania, Republic of Macedonia, Malaysia, Moldova, Morocco, Netherlands,
New Zealand, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Singapore, Slovak
Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey and the
MEDIA NOTE: The full TIMSS Benchmarking reports will be available
on-line at the International Study Center's web site or by calling 617-552-1600.
Boston College International Study Co-Directors Michael O. Martin and
Ina V.S. Mullis will be available for phone interviews following the
news conference on Wednesday, April 4, 2001 from 1-3 p.m. Eastern Time
at 202-502-7340 or 202-502-7422.