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Spotlight 1: An International Comparison of School Crime and Safety
(Last Updated: May 2017)

In 2015, about 15 percent of U.S. fourth-graders and 7 percent of U.S. eighth-graders reported experiencing bullying at least once a month. These percentages were lower than the international averages for fourth-graders and eighth-graders (16 percent and 8 percent, respectively).

The Indicators of School Crime and Safety report contains a selection of indicators that provide data on crime and safety in U.S. schools. This spotlight helps to put some of the U.S. data into a broader context by examining measures of school crime and safety in the United States as they compare to those of other countries. Using data from the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), this spotlight examines students' reports of bullying, teachers' reports of whether the school environment is safe and orderly, and principals' reports of school discipline issues for students in grades 4 and 8.

The primary purpose of TIMSS is to compare the mathematics and science performances of fourth- and eighth-grade students in participating countries and education systems.2 In addition to the mathematics and science assessments, TIMSS provides questionnaires to students who participate, as well as to the teachers and principals of participating students. These questionnaires contain items relating to a variety of measures that pertain to the classroom and school environment. Responses to these items can help place the mathematics and science performance of students in a broader educational context.

On the 2015 TIMSS questionnaire, both fourth- and eighth-grade students were asked to report on the frequency with which they experienced a series of behaviors that encompass aspects of bullying. The bullying questionnaire item asked, "During this school year, how often have other students from your school done any of the following things to you (including through texting and the Internet)?" These behaviors were listed after the question: Made fun of me or called me names; Left me out of games or activities; Spread lies about me; Stole something from me; Hit or hurt me (e.g., shoving, hitting, kicking); Made me do things I didn't want to do; Shared embarrassing information about me; Threatened me; and Posted embarrassing things about me online (only asked of eighth-graders).

The response options for each bullying behavior listed were: "never," "a few times a year," "once or twice a month," and "at least once a week." Responses were used to construct a scale of student bullying consisting of three categories of frequency: Never or almost never, a few times a year, and at least once a month.

For fourth-graders, experiencing bullying "at least once a month" corresponded with their reporting, on the TIMSS questionnaire, that they experienced at least four of the eight bullying behaviors "at least once or twice a month." For eighth-graders, experiencing bullying "at least once a month" corresponded with their reporting, on the TIMSS questionnaire, that they experienced at least five of the nine bullying behaviors "at least once or twice a month." The discussion in this indicator focuses on those students whose responses indicated a frequency of experiencing bullying behavior "at least once a month."

In the United States, 15 percent of fourth-grade students reported experiencing bullying at least once a month (figure S1.1 and table S1.1). This was lower than the international average of 16 percent. The percentage of U.S. fourth-grade students who reported experiencing bullying at least once a month was lower than the percentages in 16 countries, higher than the percentages in 21 countries, and not measurably different from the percentages in 10 countries.


Figure S1.1. Percentage of fourth-grade students who reported experiencing bullying at least once a month during the school year, by country or other education system: 2015

Figure S1.1. Percentage of fourth-grade students who reported experiencing bullying at least once a month during the school year, by country or other education system: 2015

1 Data are available for at least 70 percent but less than 85 percent of the students.
2 Norway collected data from students in their 5th year of schooling rather than in grade 4 because year 1 in Norway is considered the equivalent of kindergarten.
NOTE: Most of the education systems represent complete countries, but some represent subnational entities; England, for example, is part of the United Kingdom. Data are based on rounded estimates.
SOURCE: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), 2015.


About 7 percent of U.S. eighth-graders reported they experienced bullying at least once a month (figure S1.2 and table S1.1). As was the case with U.S. fourth-graders, the percentage of U.S. eighth-graders who experienced bullying at least once a month was lower than the international average (8 percent). The percentage of U.S. eighth-grade students who reported experiencing bullying at least once a month was lower than the percentages in 13 countries, higher than the percentages in 16 countries, and not measurably different from the percentages in 6 countries.

The 2015 TIMSS questionnaire asked teachers of participating fourth- and eighth-grade students to report on whether their school was safe and orderly. The questionnaire item was, "Thinking about your current school, indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with each of the following statements," and it was followed by these statements: This school is located in a safe neighborhood; I feel safe at this school; This school's security policies and practices are sufficient; The students behave in an orderly manner; The students are respectful of the teachers; The students respect school property; This school has clear rules about student conduct; and This school's rules are enforced in a clear and consistent manner.

The response options for each statement were: "agree a lot," "agree a little," "disagree a little," and "disagree a lot." The responses from teachers were used to construct a scale consisting of these degrees of school safety and orderliness: Very safe and orderly, Safe and orderly, and Less than safe and orderly.

The discussion in this indicator focuses on those teachers who reported their school was "less than safe and orderly." For teachers of both fourth-graders and eighth-graders, "less than safe and orderly" corresponded with their reporting, on the TIMSS questionnaire, that they "disagreed a little" or "disagreed a lot" with at least four of the eight statements about safety and orderliness.


Figure S1.2. Percentage of eighth-grade students who reported experiencing bullying at least once a month during the school year, by country or other education system: 2015

Figure S1.2. Percentage of eighth-grade students who reported experiencing bullying at least once a month during the school year, by country or other education system: 2015

1 Norway collected data from students in their 9th year of schooling rather than in grade 8 because year 1 in Norway is considered the equivalent of kindergarten.
NOTE: Most of the education systems represent complete countries, but some represent subnational entities; England, for example, is part of the United Kingdom. Data are based on rounded estimates.
SOURCE: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), 2015.


In the United States, 7 percent of participating fourth-grade students attended schools that were less than safe and orderly, according to the data reported by their teachers (figure S1.3 and table S1.2). This was higher than the international average of 4 percent. The percentage of U.S. fourth-grade students whose teachers reported that their school was less than safe and orderly was higher than the percentages in 22 countries and not measurably different from the percentages in 19 countries.


Figure S1.3. Percentage of fourth-grade students whose teachers rated the school as less than safe and orderly, by country or other education system: 2015

Figure S1.3. Percentage of fourth-grade students whose teachers rated the school as less than safe and orderly, by country or other education system: 2015

# Rounds to zero.
! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
1 Norway collected data from students in their 9th year of schooling rather than in grade 8 because year 1 in Norway is considered the equivalent of kindergarten.
2 Data are available for at least 70 percent but less than 85 percent of the students.
NOTE: Most of the education systems represent complete countries, but some represent subnational entities; England, for example, is part of the United Kingdom. Data are based on rounded estimates. Georgia, Hong Kong (China), Ireland, Lithuania, Qatar, and Republic of Korea are excluded from the figure, because their data did not meet reporting standards (the coefficient of variation is 50 percent or greater).
SOURCE: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), 2015.


About 13 percent of participating U.S. eighth-grade students attended schools that were less than safe and orderly, according to the data reported by their teachers (figure S1.4 and table S1.2). As was the case with U.S. fourth-graders, the percentage of U.S. eight-graders whose teachers reported that their schools were less than safe and orderly was higher than the international average of 8 percent. The percentage of U.S. eighth-graders whose teachers reported their school was less than safe and orderly was lower than the percentages in 2 countries, higher than the percentages in 26 countries, and not measurably different from the percentages in 7 countries.

On the 2015 TIMSS questionnaire, principals of participating fourth- and eighth-grade students were asked to report on the severity of school discipline problems. The questionnaire item asked, "To what degree is each of the following a problem among [fourth-grade/eighth-grade] students in your school?" These behaviors or occurrences were listed following the questionnaire item: Arriving late at school; Absenteeism (i.e., unjustified absences); Classroom disturbance; Cheating; Profanity; Vandalism; Theft; Intimidation or verbal abuse among students (including texting, e-mailing, etc.); Intimidation or verbal abuse of teachers or staff (including texting, e-mailing, etc.); Physical fights among students (only asked of fourth-grade principals); Physical injury to other students (only asked of eighth-grade principals); and Physical injury to teachers or staff (only asked of eighth-grade principals).

The response options for each behavior or occurrence listed were: "not a problem," "minor problem," "moderate problem," and "serious problem." These responses were used to construct a scale of school discipline problems consisting of three categories of severity: Hardly any problems, minor problems, and moderate to severe problems.

The discussion in this indicator focuses on those principals who reported their schools had "moderate to severe discipline problems." For principals of fourth-graders, "moderate to severe" discipline problems corresponded with their reporting, on the TIMSS questionnaire, that at least five of the ten behaviors or occurrences were a "moderate or severe problem." For principals of eighth-graders, "moderate to severe" discipline problems corresponded with their reporting, on the TIMSS questionnaire, that at least six of the eleven behaviors or occurrences were a "moderate or severe problem."


Figure S1.4. Percentage of eighth-grade students whose teachers rated the school as less than safe and orderly, by country or other education system: 2015

Figure S1.4. Percentage of eighth-grade students whose teachers rated the school as less than safe and orderly, by country or other education system: 2015

# Rounds to zero.
! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
1 Norway collected data from students in their 9th year of schooling rather than in grade 8 because year 1 in Norway is considered the equivalent of kindergarten.
NOTE: Most of the education systems represent complete countries, but some represent subnational entities; England, for example, is part of the United Kingdom. Data are based on rounded estimates. Georgia is excluded from the figure, because the data did not meet reporting standards (the coefficient of variation is 50 percent or greater).
SOURCE: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), 2015.


In the United States, 3 percent of participating fourth-grade students attended schools with moderate to severe discipline problems, according to the data reported by their principals (figure S1.5 and table S1.3). This was lower than the international average of 10 percent. The percentage of U.S. fourth-grade students whose principals reported moderate to severe discipline problems was lower than the percentages in 20 countries, higher than the percentages in 6 countries—in each of these countries the percentage of fourth-graders whose principals reported that there were moderate to severe problems at their school rounded to zero—and not measurably different from the percentages in 15 countries.


Figure S1.5. Percentage of fourth-grade students whose principals reported that school discipline problems were moderate to severe, by country or other education system: 2015

Figure S1.5. Percentage of fourth-grade students whose principals reported that school discipline problems were moderate to severe, by country or other education system: 2015

# Rounds to zero.
! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
1 Data are available for at least 50 percent but less than 70 percent of the students.
2 Data are available for at least 70 percent but less than 85 percent of the students.
NOTE: Most of the education systems represent complete countries, but some represent subnational entities; England, for example, is part of the United Kingdom. Data are based on rounded estimates. Australia, Chinese Taipei, England, Ireland, New Zealand, and Norway are excluded from the figure, because their data did not meet reporting standards (the coefficient of variation is 50 percent or greater).
SOURCE: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), 2015.


About 2 percent of participating U.S. eighth-grade students attended schools with moderate to severe discipline problems, according to the data reported by their principals (figure S1.6 and table S1.3). As was the case with U.S. fourth-graders, the percentage U.S. eighth-graders whose principals reported that there were moderate to severe discipline problems at their school was lower than the international average of 11 percent. The percentage of U.S. eighth-grade students whose principals reported moderate to severe discipline problems was lower than the percentages in 19 countries, higher than the percentages in 3 countries—in each of these countries the percentage of eighth-graders who reported that there were moderate to severe problems at their school rounded to zero—and not measurably different from the percentages in 7 countries.

Figure S1.6. Percentage of eighth-grade students whose principals reported that school discipline problems were moderate to severe, by country or other education system: 2015

Figure S1.6. Percentage of eighth-grade students whose principals reported that school discipline problems were moderate to severe, by country or other education system: 2015

# Rounds to zero.
! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
1 Data are available for at least 70 percent but less than 85 percent of the students.
2 Norway collected data from students in their 9th year of schooling rather than in grade 8 because year 1 in Norway is considered the equivalent of kindergarten.
NOTE: Most of the education systems represent complete countries, but some represent subnational entities; England, for example, is part of the United Kingdom. Data are based on rounded estimates. Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Ireland, Lithuania, Malaysia, and Russian Federation are excluded from the figure, because their data did not meet reporting standards (the coefficient of variation is 50 percent or greater).
SOURCE: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS),


This spotlight indicator features data on a selected issue of current policy interest. For more information: Tables S1.1, S1.2, S1.3, and http://timss2015.org.


2  Most of the education systems represent complete countries, but some, such as England (which is part of the United Kingdom), represent subnational entities. The term "countries" is used throughout this indicator to refer both to countries and subnational entities.