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APPENDIX 1: Summary Of International Study Guidelines And Definition Of Eligible Students
A1.1: Nations' Definitions Of Eligible Students And Whether Met Sampling Standards: Mathematics And Science General Knowledge Assessments
A1.2: Nations' Definitions Of Eligible Students And Whether Met Sampling Standards: Advanced Mathematics Assessment
A1.3: Nations' Definitions Of Eligible Students And Whether Met Sampling Standards: Physics Assessment
APPENDIX 2: National Average Scores, Percentiles Of Achievement, And Standard Errors
A2.1: National Average Scores And Standard Errors: Mathematics And Science General Knowledge
A2.2: National Average Scores And Standard Errors: Physics And Advanced Mathematics
A2.3: Percentiles Of Achievement In Mathematics General Knowledge: Final Year Of Secondary School
A2.4: Percentiles Of Achievement In Science General Knowledge: Final Year Of Secondary School
A2.5: Percentiles Of Achievement In Advanced Mathematics: Final Year Of Secondary School
A2.6: Percentiles Of Achievement In Physics: Final Year Of Secondary School
APPENDIX 3: Performance on Assessment Item Examples By Country
A3.1: Performance On Assessment Items Examples By Country: Mathematics And Science General Knowledge
A3.2: Performance On Assessment Items Examples By Country: Physics And Advanced Mathematics
APPENDIX 4: Scores and Standard Errors for U.S. AP and Non-AP Physics and Calculus Students
A4.1: U.S. AP and Non-AP Calculus Students' Scores By Content Area
A4.2: U.S. AP and Non-AP Physics Students' Scores By Content Area
APPENDIX 5: Additional Supporting Materials
A5.1: Mathematics Performance At Eighth Grade And Final Year Of Secondary School For The 20 Countries That Participated In TIMSS At Both Grade Levels
A5.2: Mathematics Performance At Fourth Grade And Final Year Of Secondary School For The 12 Countries That Participated In TIMSS At Both Grade Levels
A5.3: Achievement In Mathematics General Knowledge By Gender For Students In Their Final Year Of Secondary School
A5.4: Science Performance At Eighth Grade And Final Year Of Secondary School For The 20 Countries That Participated In TIMSS At Both Grade Levels
A5.5: Science Performance At Fourth Grade And Final Year Of Secondary School For The 12 Countries That Participated In TIMSS At Both Grade Levels
A5.6: Achievement In Science General Knowledge By Gender For Students In Their Final Year Of Secondary School
A5.7: Advanced Mathematics And Advanced Science Students As A Proportion Of Age Cohort And Performance On Advanced Mathematics And On Physics Assessments Relative To The United States
A5.8: Gender Differences In Advanced Mathematics Achievement For Students In Their Final Year Of Secondary School Having Taken Advanced Mathematics
A5.9: Achievement In Advanced Mathematics Content Areas By Gender For Students Having Taken Advanced Mathematics
A5.10: Gender Differences In Physics Achievement For Students In Their Final Year Of Secondary School Having Taken Advanced Science
A5.11: Achievement In Physics Content Areas By Gender For Advanced Science Students
A5.12: Extent Of Differentiation In Secondary Education And Performance On TIMSS General Knowledge Assessments Relative To The United States
A5.13: Average Age Of Students Assessed And Grades Included In General Knowledge Assessments Compared To Performance On Mathematics General Knowledge Assessment Relative The United States
A5.14: Secondary Enrollment And Completion Compared To The United States
A5.15: Centralization Of Decision-Making About Curriculum Syllabi And Performance On Mathematics And Science General Knowledge Assessments Relative To The United States
A5.16: Gross National Product Per Capita And Public Expenditure On Elementary And Secondary Education Of TIMSS Nations Compared To Performance On The Mathematics General Knowledge Assessment Relative To The United States
A5.17: Average Age Of Participants In TIMSS Eighth-Grade Mathematics Assessment And Final Year Of Secondary School Mathematics General Knowledge Assessment And Nations' Relative Standing In Achievement In The Two Assessments
A5.18: Mathematics And Science Coursetaking And Change In Standing Relative To The International Average Between Eighth Grade And Final Year Of Secondary School
A5.19: Average Age Of Participants In TIMSS Eighth-Grade Science Assessment And Final Year Of Secondary School Science General Knowledge Assessment And Change In Nations' Standing Relative To The International Average From Eighth Grade To Final Year Of Secondary School
A5.20: Responses To Selected Student Questionnaire Items: Responses Of Students Participating In Mathematics And Science General Knowledge Assessments
A5.21: Responses To Selected Student Questionnaire Items: Responses of Students Participating In Advanced Mathematics Assessment
A5.22: Responses To Selected Student Questionnaire Items: Responses Of Students Participating In Physics Assessment
APPENDIX 6: Advisors To The U.S. TIMSS Study
APPENDIX 7: Additional TIMSS Reports
FIGURE 1: Mathematics General Knowledge Achievement.
FIGURE 2: Example 1: Mathematics General Knowledge Item
FIGURE 3: Example 2: Mathematics General Knowledge Item
FIGURE 4: Example 3: Mathematics General Knowledge Item
FIGURE 5: Science General Knowledge Achievement
FIGURE 6: Example 4: Science General Knowledge Item
FIGURE 7: Example 5: Science General Knowledge Item
FIGURE 8: Example 6: Science General Knowledge Item
FIGURE 9: Average Advanced Mathematics Performance Of Advanced Mathematics Students In All Countries
FIGURE 10: Average Advanced Mathematics Performance Of Advanced Mathematics Students In Other Countries Compared With U.S. Calculus And AP Calculus Students
FIGURE 11: Average Advanced Mathematics Performance Of Advanced Mathematics Students In Other Countries Compared With U.S. AP Calculus Students
FIGURE 12: Achievement In Advanced Mathematics Content Areas
FIGURE 13: Example 7: Geometry Item
FIGURE 14: Example 8: Probability And Statistics Item
FIGURE 15: Example 9: Calculus Item
FIGURE 16: Average Physics Performance Of Advanced Science Students In All Countries
FIGURE 17: Average Physics Performance Of Advanced Science Students In Other Countries Compared with U.S. AP Physics Students
FIGURE 18: Achievement In Physics Content Areas
FIGURE 19: Example 10: Mechanics Item
FIGURE 20: Example 11: Heat Item
FIGURE 21: Example 12: Wave Phenomena Item
FIGURE 22: Age Beginning Grade 1 And Grade(s) Marking End Of Secondary School in TIMSS Nations
FIGURE 23: U.S. Twelfth-Grade Students' Reports on Personal Safety at School In Comparison With The International Average
FIGURE 24: U.S. Twelfth-Grade Students' Reports On Hours On A Normal School Day Spent Working At A Paid Job In Comparison With The International Average
FIGURE 25: Relationship Between U.S. Relative Performance And Schooling And Student Factors: Mathematics General Knowledge
FIGURE 26: Relationship Between U.S. Relative Performance And Schooling And Student Factors: Science Knowledge Assessments
FIGURE 27: Relationship Between U.S. Relative Performance And Education System Factors: Grade Eight And End Of Secondary School
FIGURE 28: Advanced Mathematics Students' Reports On Connecting Mathematics To Everyday Problems
FIGURE 29: Relationship Between U.S. Relative Performance And Instructional Factors: Physics And Advanced Mathematics Students
A Study of U.S. Twelfth-Grade
Mathematics and Science Achievement
in International Context
Initial Findings from the
The (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data related to education in the United States and other nations. It fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report full and complete statistics on the condition of education in the United States; conduct and publish reports and specialized analyses of the meaning and significance of such statistics; assist state and local education agencies in improving their statistical systems; and review and report on education activities in foreign countries.
NCES activities are designed to address high priority education data needs; provide consistent, reliable, complete, and accurate indicators of education status and trends; and report timely, useful, and high-quality data to the U.S. Department of Education, the Congress, the states, other education policy makers, practitioners, data users, and the general public.
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Available for downloading at //timss
The authors wish to thank all those who contributed to the production of this report through their insightful suggestions. The invited reviewers who gave of their time and expertise included: Susan Fuhrman of the University of Pennsylvania; Henry Heikkinen of the University of Northern Colorado; Mary Lindquist of Columbus State University; Laura Lippman of NCES; and Robert Burton of NCES. We would also like to thank the many other individuals both within and outside the Department of Education who provided helpful comments during the development of this report.
The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is the largest, most comprehensive, and most rigorous international study of schools and student achievement ever conducted. This report, Pursuing Excellence: A Study of U.S. Twelfth-Grade Mathematics and Science Achievement in International Context, compares the general mathematics and science knowledge of our students in their last year of secondary school with those of 20 other countries, as well as the achievement of our students taking physics and advanced mathematics courses with those in 15 other countries. It is the last of three major TIMSS reports by the (NCES) in its Pursuing Excellence series. The first report, outlining U.S. comparative eighth-grade results, was released in November 1996, and the second report, detailing fourth-grade results, was released in June 1997. Together, these three studies paint the most complete picture ever of how achievement in mathematics and science by U.S. students compares with that of other nations. The information is intended to help U.S. educators, parents, policymakers, and others evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of our schools from an international perspective. This comparative portrait can be used to examine our education system, scrutinize improvement plans, and evaluate proposed standards and curricula.
The scope of TIMSS is unprecedented in the annals of education research. The international project involved the testing of more than one-half million students in mathematics and science at three grade levels in 41 countries. In contrast to previous international comparative studies, TIMSS also goes beyond the traditional "horserace" data on student performance to explore possible causes for differences in achievement including questions on students' lives inside and outside of the classroom.
This wealth of data is being analyzed and published by NCES and others around the world. TIMSS has become the most accessible international education study ever by releasing information in a variety of new forms, including CD-ROM, videotape, and the World Wide Web (//timss). We invite everyone who is dedicated to enhancing the quality of our nation's mathematics and science education to make the fullest possible use of this rich resource.
Together, the various TIMSS reports constitute important tools that can improve the quality of primary and secondary education for all students. That is why the Center has worked cooperatively with other parts of the U.S. Department of Education to produce a multi-media resource kit designed for educators and those interested in using TIMSS data to improve teaching, curricula, and student achievement in states and local communities. We also will be conducting a follow-up study in 1999, when the students who took TIMSS in the fourth grade have reached the eighth grade, both to compare their performance with the 1995 eighth-grade results, and to assess the level of progress made by this group of students over the intervening four years.
The TIMSS data provide a reference point from which we can begin to clarify what we mean by "world-class" education. They give us tools by which we can benchmark not only the performance of our students but also the way in which we deliver instruction. Most importantly, they allow the U.S. to learn unique lessons from other members of the world community so that we may better pursue the goal of an excellent education for all students.
Pascal D. Forgione, Jr.
The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) was designed explicitly to enable educators and policy makers to compare achievement in science and mathematics of students in the United States with those in other countries at three levels of education, grades 4, 8, and the final year of secondary school (grade 12 in the U.S.). With this publication of the results of the 1995 assessment of the final year of secondary school, TIMSS has been successful. In addition, differences in student learning and characteristics of schooling, as measured by the TIMSS assessment instruments and questionnaires, enhance our understanding of the possible influences of such factors as school organization, teaching practices, student study habits, and family background. But the secrets of raising the level of student achievement beyond their current levels are not readily uncovered, and this study provides no easy answers or quick fixes.
The results of students in the final year of secondary school in the TIMSS science and mathematics general knowledge assessments found that our students performed less well than they did at grade 8, significantly below the international mean. In addition, U.S. most advanced students (those taking pre-calculus or calculus and those taking physics) performed at low levels in advanced mathematics and at especially low levels in physics when compared with similar students in other countries.
Once the results for all grades are considered, we see that U.S. students in the early school years have reasonable levels of achievement when compared with other countries--in science they are actually rated near the top--but performance lags by grade 8 and becomes even poorer at grade 12. The report's new information about advanced students should be reviewed carefully by college and university policy makers as well as those who influence coursetaking and career decisions made during the high school years.
Results of the advanced mathematics test reveal some unexpected weaknesses. Despite the fact that about one-quarter of the test related to calculus and that one-half of the U.S. advanced mathematics students were actually studying calculus, it was in geometry, not calculus, where U.S. students performed worst. This is consistent with performance in grades 4 and 8, but unexpected because these advanced students have all had formal geometry coursework. The results show that both geometry and algebra need to be key subjects of study throughout the curriculum.
For me, as a physicist with a keen interest in education, the science results are even more troubling. Students performed poorly in most sub-areas of physics, with the poorest performance coming on items on mechanics and electricity/magnetism (areas that account for about 75 percent of American physics textbooks). Even students who took an Advanced Placement physics course scored below the international norm.
These studies suggest that students appear to disengage from learning critical mathematics and science content as they progress through the school system. The sources of disengagement may include the classroom environment, the quality of instruction, and parental and community support for the value of science and mathematics to our children's future.
Improving achievement in mathematics and science subjects, whether in basic skills or advanced critical thinking, will require that students have, in combination, access to good teachers, good teaching materials, and agreement within the school on the goals of learning for all students. There are many efforts underway in states and localities throughout the United States to reform the process of teaching and learning mathematics and science. They are beginning to reveal mechanisms for obtaining gains in achievement. TIMSS also provides us with examples of nations with high performance at all grade levels, most notably Canada, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. American educators need to examine these successful efforts, learn from them, and effectively use all available resources to improve teaching and learning in mathematics and science at all grade levels.
Neal Lane, Director
ACHIEVEMENT OF ALL STUDENTS
ACHIEVEMENT OF ADVANCED STUDENTS
CONTEXTS OF LEARNING
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