Detailed descriptions of the studies are below:IELS — International Early Learning Study
The United States participates in international studies primarily for two reasons:
International assessments of students also enable countries to (1) learn from each other about the variety of approaches to schooling; and (2) identify promising practices and policies to consider in their schools. International assessments of adults enable research on the correlates between adults’ work and educational experiences and their skill levels within countries and cross-nationally.
To better measure the knowledge and skills required for success in the 21st century, all of the international studies in which the United States participates through NCES have transitioned to a digitally based format. In this format, participants respond to assessment or survey questions using a tablet or computer.
The transition to digitally based assessments (DBAs) allows:
|Study||First Year of Digitally Based Components||Digitally Based Implementation Details|
|TALIS||20081||TALIS administers online teacher and principal questionnaires.|
|PIAAC||2012||In 2012, PIAAC assessed adult literacy and numeracy using paper-based or computer-based assessments. The problem solving in technology-rich environments component was only computer-based. PIAAC also administered online background questionnaires, with an option for paper where necessary. In 2023, all components will be computer-based only.|
|PISA||2012||In 2012, PISA administered optional DBA assessments in mathematics, reading, and problem solving. In the 2015 cycle, the assessments for all domains were administered online for students. PISA administers online curriculum, school, teacher, and student questionnaires as well.|
|ICILS||20132||ICILS is a computer-based international assessment of eighth-grade students' computer and information literacy. Surveys of students, schools, and teachers are also administered online.|
|PIRLS||2016||In 2016, in addition to the paper-based PIRLS assessment, a subset of education systems administered ePIRLS, an innovative computer-based assessment of online reading. PIRLS administered online curriculum, school, and teacher questionnaires during this cycle. In 2021, PIRLS was administered as an entirely digital assessment referred to as digitalPIRLS, which included both the traditional PIRLS assessment in digital format as well as the interactive ePIRLS items. For the first time, the student questionnaire was also administered digitally.|
|IELS||2018||Children interact with tablet computers in activities to measure pre-literacy, pre-numeracy, self-regulation, and social emotional (empathy and trust) skills. Surveys of teachers and parents are also administered online.|
|TIMSS||2019||In 2019, for both the fourth and eighth grades, TIMSS administered eTIMSS, where mathematics and science items were administered via computers or tablets. During the 2019 cycle, all questionnaires (curriculum, school, teacher) were administered digitally, except for the student questionnaire. Beginning in 2023, all components of TIMSS will be administered digitally.|
At times, different assessments report different findings for the same subject. One obvious factor to consider when examining findings across assessments is that the grade or age levels of the students assessed may differ. Another factor is that studies also differ in the specific subject matter or skills emphasized, (e.g., reading, mathematics, science). To help readers understand the similarities and differences between the assessments, NCES has developed a series of cross-study comparisons that provide detailed information on the purposes, target populations, reporting levels, and content assessed through the different studies.
An additional difference between assessments that can affect the findings in terms of the U.S. position relative to other countries is the groups of countries involved in a study. The United States may appear to perform better or worse depending on the number and competitiveness of the other participating countries.