What Is the TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking Study?
The TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking Study enabled states and school districts
in the United States to participate in TIMSS 1999, also known as TIMSS-Repeat
or TIMSS-R. The Benchmarking Study is a voluntary component of TIMSS
1999 in which U.S. states and school districts were given an unprecedented
opportunity to "benchmark" the mathematics and science achievement
of their students against the world class performance of students in
the top-scoring TIMSS 1999 countries. TIMSS 1999, a successor to the
1995 Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), focused
on the mathematics and science achievement of eighth-grade students.
Thirty-eight countries including the United States participated in TIMSS
1999, and 27 jurisdictions from all across the U.S., including 13 states
and 14 districts or consortia, participated in the Benchmarking Study.
In addition to measuring achievement, TIMSS 1999 and the Benchmarking
Study investigated the contexts for learning mathematics and science
in the participating entities through background questionnaires completed
by students, teachers, school principals, and project coordinators from
the participating entities. Information was collected about educational
systems, curriculum, instructional practices, and characteristics of
students, teachers, and schools, providing an extremely rich source
of valuable insights into the teaching and learning of mathematics and
science. The TIMSS results have stirred debate, spurred reform efforts,
and provided important information to decision makers, researchers,
and practitioners the world over.
Who Participated in the TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking Study?
The Participants Map (PDF),
which lists the 13 states and 14 districts or consortia that participated
in TIMSS Benchmarking and the 38 countries that participated in TIMSS
Geographically the Benchmarking jurisdictions were from all across the
U.S., although there was a concentration of east coast participants
with six of the states and several of the districts and consortia from
the eastern seaboard. There was substantial diversity across the Benchmarking
jurisdictions in the size and socioeconomic composition of their student
populations, as well as in their per pupil expenditure on education.
Although taken collectively the Benchmarking participants are not representative
of the United States, the effort was substantial in scope involving
approximately 1,000 schools, 4,000 teachers, and 50,000 students.
States participating in the Benchmarking Study were required to sample
at least 50 schools and approximately 2,000 eighth-grade students. School
districts and consortia were required to sample at least 25 schools
and at least 1,000 students. Where there were fewer than 25 schools
in a district or consortium, all schools were to be included, and the
within-school sample increased to yield the total of 1,000 students.
All but five Benchmarking jurisdictions (four states and one consortium)
included public schools only. For the most part, the United States TIMSS
1999 national sample was separate from the students assessed in each
of the Benchmarking jurisdictions. Each Benchmarking participant had
its own sample to provide comparisons with each of the TIMSS 1999 countries
including the United States.
What Are the Consortia?
The consortia consist of groups of entire school districts or individual
schools from several districts that organized together either to participate
in the Benchmarking Study or to collaborate across a range of educational
issues. Descriptions of the consortia that participated in the project
Delaware Science Coalition. The Delaware Science Coalition (DSC)
is comprised of 15 school districts working in partnership with the
Delaware Department of Education and the business-based Delaware Foundation
for Science and Mathematics Education to improve the teaching and learning
of science for all students in grades K-8.
First in the World Consortium. The First in the World Consortium
consists of 18 school districts from the North Shore of Chicago that
have joined forces to bring a world-class education to the regions
students and to improve mathematics and science achievement in their
Fremont/Lincoln/Westside Public Schools. The Fremont/Lincoln/Westside
consortium is comprised of three school districts in Nebraska. These
districts joined together specifically to participate in the Benchmarking
Michigan Invitational Group. The Michigan Invitational Group
is a socioeconomically diverse consortium composed of urban, suburban,
and rural schools across Michigan. Schools invited to participate as
part of this consortium were those that were using National Science
Foundation (NSF) materials, had well-developed curricula, and provided
staff development to teachers.
Project SMART Consortium. SMART (Science & Mathematics Achievement
Required For Tomorrow) is a consortium of 30 diverse school districts
in northeast Ohio committed to long term systemic change and improved
student learning in science and mathematics in grades K-12. It is jointly
funded by the Ohio Department of Education and the Martha Holden Jennings
Southwest Pennsylvania Math and Science Collaborative. The Southwest
Pennsylvania Math and Science Collaborative coordinates efforts and
focuses resources on strengthening mathematics and science education
in the entire southwest Pennsylvania workforce region that has Pittsburgh
as its center. The Collaborative is composed of all 118 "local
control" public school districts, as well as the parochial and
private schools in the nine-county region.
Why a Benchmarking Study?
To meet the challenge of preparing children around the world for a
technologically oriented 21st century, policy makers and educators need
information about students understanding of mathematics and science
to improve learning and instruction. Over the last decade, many states
and school districts have created content and performance standards
targeted at improving students achievement in mathematics and
science. There has been an enormous amount of energy expended in states
and school districts not only on developing mathematics and science
content standards but also on improving teacher quality and school environments
as well as on developing assessments and accountability measures.
Participation in the TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking Study was intended to
help U.S. states and school districts assess the comparative international
standing of their students achievement, evaluate the rigor and
effectiveness of their mathematics and science programs in a global
context, and improve the teaching and learning of mathematics and science.
Regardless of its performance, each state, district, and consortium
will have a better idea of the challenges ahead and access to a rich
array of information about various facets of its educational system.
The TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking results provide an excellent basis for examining
how best to move from developing curriculum frameworks or content standards
in mathematics and science to meeting the extraordinary challenge of
actually implementing the standards in schools and classrooms often
characterized by considerable cultural, socioeconomic, and experiential
What Was the Nature of the Test?
The mathematics and science tests were based on the TIMSS curriculum
frameworks, which were developed by groups of educators with input from
the TIMSS National Research Coordinators (NRCs). The tests were developed
through a consensus process by international experts in mathematics,
science, and educational measurement, and were endorsed by all participating
countries. Working within the frameworks, test specifications were developed
that included items representing a wide range of mathematics and science
topics and eliciting a range of skills from the students. The mathematics
test covered five content areas: fractions and number sense; measurement;
data representation, analysis, and probability; geometry; and algebra.
The science test covered six content areas: earth science; life science;
physics; chemistry; environmental and resource issues; and scientific
inquiry and the nature of science.
The tests included multiple-choice questions, comprising about three-fourths
of the items, and open-response items requiring students to solve problems
and explain their answers. To achieve broad content coverage, a matrix
sampling technique was used in which the 308 test items (162 mathematics
and 146 science) were systematically distributed across eight test booklets,
and the booklets were randomly distributed to students. Each student
in the sampled classrooms responded to one test booklet that included
about 80 mathematics and science questions, requiring 90 minutes to
complete. About half the items used in 1999 have been released for public
use (available at the TIMSS
1999 International web site).
What Is the Comparability of the Results?
To conduct the Benchmarking Study, the TIMSS 1999 assessments were
administered to representative samples of eighth-grade students in each
of the participating jurisdictions in the spring of 1999, at the same
time and following the same guidelines as those established for all
38 countries. Procedures used throughout both TIMSS 1999 and the Benchmarking
Study ensure that the results are comparable across participating entities.
To ensure comparability in testing, rigorous procedures were designed
to translate the tests where necessary, and numerous training sessions
were held in data collection and scoring activities. Quality control
monitors observed testing sessions in all jurisdictions and reported
back to the International Study Center at Boston College, which manages
the TIMSS studies. The samples of students selected for testing were
scrutinized according to rigorous standards designed to prevent bias
and ensure comparability. In general, the Benchmarking samples were
drawn in accordance with the TIMSS standards, and achievement results
can be compared with confidence. Prior to analysis, the data from each
participating entity were subjected to exhaustive checks for accuracy
and consistency. In short, TIMSS 1999 and the Benchmarking Study used
the same achievement tests and background questionnaires, the same sampling
definitions and procedures, the same test administration procedures,
and the same data analysis and scaling methods, all of which ensure
the comparability of the results.
How Are the Results Reported?
The results of the TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking Study are presented in two
companion reports, the Mathematics Benchmarking Report: TIMSS 1999
Eighth Grade and the Science Benchmarking Report: TIMSS 1999
The reports contain rankings of all participants and jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction
comparisons of mathematics and science achievement overall and for each
content area; comparisons of performance against international benchmarks
(see below); and gender differences in performance. The achievement
data are accompanied by extensive questionnaire data about the home,
classroom, school, and jurisdictional contexts within which mathematics
and science learning take place. In some cases results for the Benchmarking
participants are reported in comparison to the results for all TIMSS
1999 countries, and in other cases in comparison to the results for
selected reference countries, comprised of the United States as well
as a dozen European and Asian countries of interest. These include several
high-performing European countries (Belgium (Flemish), the Czech Republic,
the Netherlands, and the Russian Federation), countries that are major
economic trading partners of the United States (Canada, England, and
Italy), and the top-scoring Asian countries of Chinese Taipei, Hong
Kong SAR, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore.
In addition to reporting achievement as scale scores, student performance
is also described in terms of international benchmarks of performance.
In order to provide meaningful descriptions of what performance on the
achievement scale could mean in terms of the mathematics and science
that students know and can do, TIMSS identified four points on the scale
Top 10%, Upper Quarter, Median, Lower Quarter (90th, 75th, 50th,
and 25th percentiles, respectively) for use as international
benchmarks, and conducted an ambitious scale-anchoring exercise to describe
performance at these benchmarks. The percentage of students in each
jurisdiction that reached each benchmark is reported. The benchmark
descriptions are accompanied by example test items illustrating student
performance at each benchmark.
What Publications and Resources Are Available?
In addition to the two Benchmarking Study reports, the results for
the 38 countries participating in TIMSS 1999, including those for the
United States, were reported in December 2000 in two companion reports,
the TIMSS 1999 International Mathematics Report and the TIMSS 1999 International
Science Report. Performance in the United States relative to that of
other nations was reported by the National Center for Education Statistics
of the U.S. Department of Education in Pursuing Excellence. The TIMSS
1999 and Benchmarking Study publications and resources are listed below.
Released April 4, 2001:
Mathematics Benchmarking Report: TIMSS 1999 Eighth Grade
Science Benchmarking Report: TIMSS 1999 Eighth Grade
TIMSS 1999 Mathematics Released Item Set
TIMSS 1999 Science Released Item Set
Released December 5, 2000:
Pursuing Excellence: Comparisons of International Eighth-Grade
Mathematics and Science Achievement from a U.S. Perspective, 1995 and
TIMSS 1999 International Mathematics Report
TIMSS 1999 International Science Report
TIMSS 1999 Technical Report
For future release:
TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking Technical Report
TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking Database and User Guide
TIMSS 1999 International Database and User Guide
All the above are published
by the International Study Center at Boston College, with the exception
of the U.S. national report Pursuing Excellence, published by the National
Center for Education Statistics.
When Is the Next TIMSS?
TIMSS 1999 was the second phase of a long-term study designed to measure
trends in mathematics and science achievement, much like the regular
cycle of national assessments in the U.S. conducted by the National
Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Work has begun on TIMSS 2003,
which will assess students in grades 4 and 8. A trend study such as
this has the potential for affecting policy and practice by investigating
the effects on achievement of efforts in educational improvement.
Who Conducted the TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking Study?
The TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking Study was a shared venture. In conjunction
with the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) of the
U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation (NSF),
the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) worked with the
International Study Center (ISC) at Boston College to develop the study.
The TIMSS studies are conducted under the auspices of the International
Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), an
independent cooperative of national and governmental research agencies
with a permanent secretariat based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Its
primary purpose is to conduct large-scale comparative studies of educational
achievement to gain a deeper understanding of the effects of policies
and practices within and across systems of education.
The IEA delegated responsibility for the overall direction and management
of TIMSS 1999 to the International Study Center in the Lynch School
of Education at Boston College. In carrying out the project, the International
Study Center worked closely with the IEA Secretariat, Statistics Canada
in Ottawa, the IEA Data Processing Center in Hamburg, Germany, and Educational
Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey. Westat in Rockville, Maryland,
was responsible for sampling and data collection both for the Benchmarking
Study and the U.S. component of TIMSS 1999.
Funding for the overall design, administration, data management, and
quality assurance activities of the TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking Study was
provided by NCES, NSF, and OERI. Each Benchmarking participant contracted
directly with Boston College to fund data collection activities in its
own jurisdiction. Funding for the international coordination of TIMSS
1999 was provided by NCES, NSF, the World Bank, and participating countries.
Each participating country was responsible for funding local project
costs and implementing TIMSS 1999 in accordance with the international