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U.S. Participation in International Assessments


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  PIRLS TIMSS PISA PIAAC
What year did the study begin? 2001 1995 2000 2012
How often is the study conducted? Every 5 years Every 4 years Every 3 years Every 10 years
When was the most recent data collection? 2011 2011 2012 2011–12
How many education systems participated in the most recent study?1 How many are OECD countries?2 45 total
(24 OECD countries)
Grade 4: 50 total (25 OECD countries)
Grade 8: 42 total (15 OECD countries)
65 total
(34 OECD countries)
23 total
(22 OECD countries)
What is the target population? Fourth-graders Fourth- and eighth-graders
(In 2015, twelfth-graders will be assessed in TIMSS Advanced.)
15-year-olds Adults ages 16–65
How many U.S. participants were in the most recent study? 12,700 Grade 4: 12,600
Grade 8: 10,500
6,100 5,000
What is assessed? Reading literacy Mathematics and science
(In 2015, advanced mathematics and physics will be assessed in TIMSS Advanced.)
Reading, mathematics, and science literacy
(In 2003 and 2012, problem solving was also assessed, and in 2012 financial literacy was also assessed.)
Literacy, numeracy, problem solving in technology-rich environments, reading components (components of reading comprehension at lower end of literacy spectrum)
Are descriptions provided of what the participants know and can do at various levels of performance? Yes, international benchmarks at advanced, high, intermediate, and low levels include descriptions of typical knowledge and skills. Yes, international benchmarks at advanced, high, intermediate, and low levels include descriptions of typical knowledge and skills. Yes, levels 1b (lowest) through 6 (highest) for reading and 1 (lowest) through 6 (highest) for mathematics and science include descriptions of typical tasks that can be completed. Yes, there are six described levels—below level 1 (lowest) through 5 (highest)—for literacy and numeracy and four described levels—below level 1 (lowest) through 3 (highest)—for problem solving in technology-rich environments. These levels include descriptions of typical tasks that can be completed.
What scale scores are provided? In reading literacy, overall scale score and subscale scores. In mathematics and science, overall scale score and subscale scores in each domain. In reading, mathematics, and science literacy, overall scale score in each domain. Subscale scores provided for the major literacy area in the cycle (e.g., reading in 2009, mathematics in 2012). In problem solving in 2003 and 2012 and financial literacy in 2012, scale score in each domain. In literacy, numeracy, problem solving in technology-rich environments, and reading components, scale score in each domain.
What are the sources that provide contextual information for the scale scores? There are student, teacher, and school questionnaires, and in most countries (not including the United States) a parent questionnaire; national research coordinators also report on characteristics of national curriculum and selected education policies and practices. In addition, a PIRLS Encyclopedia is produced providing detailed contextual information about the education systems in participating countries. There are student, teacher, and school questionnaires; national research coordinators also report on characteristics of national curriculum and selected education policies and practices. In addition, a TIMSS Encyclopedia is produced providing detailed contextual information about the education systems in participating countries. There are student and school questionnaires, and in some countries (not including the United States) a parent questionnaire. There is a participant background questionnaire, including a section on the skill requirements of participants’ jobs.
Are international data available for between-country analyses? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Are national-level data available for within-country analyses, including within-country subgroups? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Are state-level data available? Yes, for Florida in 2011 Yes, for several participating states3 Yes, for Connecticut, Florida, and Massachusetts in 2012 No
Are district-level data available? No For a few participating districts in 1995 and 19993 No Not applicable
Is it possible to do trend analyses? Yes Yes Yes Planned
1 The counts shown do not include benchmarking education systems that may have participated in the assessment (such as Canadian provinces and U.S. states) nor do they include countries that participated but not at the target grade level.
2 There are a total of 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Instances where jurisdictions within an OECD country participated separately are counted here as one OECD country (e.g., England and Northern Ireland as representing the United Kingdom).
3 The TIMSS benchmarking studies provide an opportunity for states and school districts to assess the comparative international standing of their students’ achievement. The participating states and districts administered the assessments following the same guidelines for the main TIMSS assessments, but separately from the U.S. national samples. For information about participants in the TIMSS benchmarking studies, visit: http://nces.ed.gov/timss/benchmark.asp.
To learn more about how the international assessments compare with each other and with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), please visit: http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/international/assessments.asp.

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education