In 1989, the Nation's President along with its governors made clear that there was a keen interest in comparing the educational performance of United States' students with that of students in other countries. That year a National Education Summit adopted six education goals, one of which stated that by the year 2000, "U.S. students will be first in the world in science and mathematics achievement" (National Education Goals Panel, 1991, p. 16).
The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), conducted in 1995, provides the most recent information about our country's progress toward this goal. TIMSS is the largest, most comprehensive, and most rigorous international study of the schools and student achievement ever conducted. The international project involved the testing of more than a half-million students in mathematics and science at several different grade levels in 41 countries. The TIMSS results for the United States describe student mathematics and science achievement for both the country as a whole and for various subgroups of the population. These U.S. results are directly comparable to TIMSS results from many other countries. However, with the exception of a few states that chose to participate in the state-level TIMSS program, equivalent TIMSS results are not available at the state level.
Because education in the United States is largely determined at the state and local levels, there has been considerable interest in how the performance of students in individual states compares with each other, with the United States as a whole, and with other nations. The comparison of state performance with other states and with the nation as a whole is made possible by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP surveys the educational accomplishment of U.S. students and monitors changes in those accomplishments. NAEP tracks the educational achievements of fourth-, eighth-, eleventh-, and twelfth-grade students over time in selected content areas. For nearly 30 years, NAEP has been collecting data to provide educators and policymakers with accurate and useful information.
In 1996, NAEP assessed mathematics and science in the United States as a whole. Additionally, results for the individual states that chose to participate in the state NAEP assessment are available at grades 4 and 8 for mathematics and at grade 8 for science. While it is directly possible to compare the participating states with each other and with the nation as a whole, policymakers and the general public cannot know directly how the students in the various states would perform relative to students in other countries.
Because TIMSS and NAEP were administered within a year of each other, there has been considerable interest in attempting to link the two assessments. Such a linkage would allow states that participated in the state component of the NAEP mathematics or science assessments to compare their predicted TIMSS results with the actual results from countries participating in TIMSS at the same grade level. Specifically, predicted performance on TIMSS could be estimated for each state that participated in NAEP by applying the link to that state's NAEP data.
The success of the link between the 1992 NAEP mathematics results with those from the 1991 International Assessment of Educational Progress (IAEP) in mathematics (Pashley and Phillips 1993) provided encouragement that a link between TIMSS and NAEP was possible.