Highlights From the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2003
Introduction
Mathematics
Science
Summary
List of Tables
List of Figures
References
Acknowledgements
pdf file Appendices (PDF–493kb)
pdf file Full Report (PDF–664kb)
INTRODUCTION

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2003 is the third comparison of mathematics and science achievement carried out since 1995 by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), an international organization of national research institutions and governmental research agencies. TIMSS can be used to track changes in achievement over time. Moreover, TIMSS is closely linked to the curricula of the participating countries, providing an indication of the degree to which students have learned concepts in mathematics and science they have encountered in school. In 2003, some 46 countries participated in TIMSS, at either the fourth- or eighth-grade level, or both.

This summary highlights initial findings on the performance of U.S. fourth- and eighth-grade students relative to their peers in other countries on the TIMSS assessment. The summary is based on the findings presented in two reports published by the IEA:

  • TIMSS 2003 International Mathematics Report: Findings from IEA's Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study at the Eighth and Fourth Grades (Martin et al. 2004) and
  • TIMSS 2003 International Science Report: Findings from IEA's Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study at the Eighth and Fourth Grades (Mullis et al. 2004).
These two IEA reports were simultaneously published with this summary report and are available online at http://www.timss.org.

This summary report describes the mathematics and science performance of fourth- and eighth-graders in participating countries over time. For a number of the participating countries, changes in mathematics and science achievement can be documented over 8 years, from 1995 to 2003. For others, changes can be documented over a shorter period of time, 4 years from 1999 to 2003. Table 1 shows the countries that participated in TIMSS 2003, and their participation in earlier TIMSS data collections.1 The fourth grade assessment was offered in 1995 and 2003, while the eighth grade assessment was offered in 1995, 1999, and 2003.

View Table 1: Participation in the TIMSS fourth-grade and eighth-grade assessments, by country: 1995, 1999, and 2003

Average student performance in the United States is compared to that of students in other countries that participated in each assessment.

  • At fourth grade, comparisons are made among students in the 25 countries that participated in TIMSS 2003, and in the 15 countries that participated in TIMSS 2003 and TIMSS 1995.
  • At eighth grade, comparisons are made among students in the 45 countries that participated in TIMSS 2003, and in the 35 countries that participated in TIMSS 2003 and at least one earlier data collection, either TIMSS 1995 or 1999, or both.
  • Results are presented first for mathematics and then for science at both grade levels.
  • All estimates for the United States are based on the performance of students from both public and private schools, unless otherwise indicated.
All countries were required to draw random, nationally representative samples of students and schools. The U.S. fourth grade sample achieved an initial school response rate of 70 percent (weighted); with a school response rate of 82 percent, after replacement schools were added. From the schools that agreed to participate, students were sampled in intact classes. A total of 10,795 fourth-grade students were sampled for the assessment and 9,829 participated, for a 95 percent student response rate. The resulting fourth grade overall response rate, with replacements included, was 78 percent. The U.S. eighth grade sample achieved an initial school response rate of 71 percent; with a school response rate of 78 percent, after replacement schools were added. A total of 9,891 students were sampled for the eighth grade assessment and 8,912 completed the assessment, for a 94 percent student response rate. The resulting eighth grade overall response rate, with replacements included, was 73 percent.

In addition to the assessments, students, their teachers, and principals were asked to complete questionnaires related to their school and learning experiences. At fourth grade, the assessment took approximately 72 minutes to complete. At eighth grade, the assessment took approximately 90 minutes. Detailed information on data collection, sampling, response rates, test development and design, weighting, and scaling is included in appendix A. Example items from the fourth- and eighth-grade assessments are included in appendix B.

Comparisons made in this report have been tested for statistical significance at the .05 level. Differences between averages or percentages that are statistically significant are discussed using comparative terms such as "higher" and "lower." Differences that are not statistically significant are either not discussed or referred to as "no measurable differences found" or "not statistically significant." In this latter case, failure to find a statistically significant difference should not be interpreted to mean that the estimates are the same or similar; rather, failure to find a difference may also be due to measurement or sampling error. In addition, because the results of tests of statistical significance are, in part, influenced by sample sizes, when subgroup comparisons are drawn within the United States, effect sizes are also included in order to provide the reader an increased understanding of the importance of the significant difference. These effect sizes use standard deviations, rather than standard errors, and thus are not influenced by the size of the subgroup samples. In social sciences, as used here, an effect size of .2 is considered small, one of .5 is of medium importance, and one of .8 or larger is considered large. Information on the technical aspects of the study can be found in appendix A, as well as in the TIMSS 2003 Technical Report (Martin, Mullis, and Chrostowski 2004).

Detailed tables with estimates and standard errors for all analyses included in this report are provided in appendix C. A list of TIMSS publications and resources published by NCES and the IEA is provided in appendix E.

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Footnotes