Latest Trends in International Math/Science Study issued

December 9, 2008

By hammersmith

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) provides reliable and timely data on the mathematics and science achievement of U.S. 4th- and 8th-grade students compared to that of students in other countries.  TIMSS data have been collected in 1995, 1999, 2003, and 2007.  TIMSS 2007 results were released today.

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In a nutshell, while students in grade four and eight posted solid achievements in math, the science scores for these students have remained flat since 1995.  Below find article on the study posted by the Washington Post.
Washington Post: International Science Exam Shows Plateau in U.S. Performance

U.S. students are doing no better on an international science exam than they were a decade ago, a plateau in performance that leaves educators and policymakers worried about how schools are preparing students to compete in an increasingly global economy.

Results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), released today, show how fourth- and eighth-graders in the United States measure up to peers in dozens of countries. U.S. students showed gains in math at both grades. But average science performance, although still stronger than in many countries, has stagnated since 1995.

Students in Singapore, China and Japan outperformed U.S. fourth-graders in science. So did students in the Chinese region of Hong Kong, counted as a separate participant. The U.S. students had an average score of 539 on a 1,000-point scale, higher than peers in 25 countries.

In eighth grade, students in nine countries earned higher average scores than their U.S. counterparts. Singapore topped the list with an average score of 567, with China, Japan, South Korea, England, Hungary and Russia among the countries where students earned higher marks. The average score in the United States was 520.

“We need to pay attention to the results. We’re just static, and other countries are improving,” said Francis Eberle, executive director of the Arlington-based National Science Teachers Association. “Whether it’s global warming, energy production or conservation or homeland security, people need to be able to understand enough to make decisions as a citizen.”

The TIMSS tests, administered every four years since 1995, were taken last year by a sampling of students in the United States and more than 50 other countries. In the United States, more than 20,000 students in nearly 500 public and private schools participated.

U.S. strides in math were notable. The average score among fourth-graders has jumped 11 points since 1995, to 529. But students in Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Japan, Russia and England were among those posting a higher average. Hong Kong topped the list with an average score of 607.

Eighth-graders also earned a higher average score than in 1995 and bested counterparts in 37 countries. But they lagged behind peers in China, South Korea, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong.

Improving math education has reemerged in recent years as a focus of educators and policymakers. The federal No Child Left Behind law requires schools to administer annual math tests with the goal of steadily improving performance. In 2006, President Bush appointed the National Mathematics Advisory Panel to recommend ways to ensure students that students have a strong grasp of the building blocks for algebra, a gateway to higher math.

Today’s scores renewed the call to bolster science and math classes in the nation’s schools by increasing the ranks of well-prepared teachers and providing other supports.

“While it’s good news that fourth-graders have made significant gains in math, it’s troubling that our students are still behind their international peers in both math and science — fields that are key to our country’s economic vitality and competitiveness,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. “It’s increasingly clear that building a world-class education system that provides students with a strong foundation in math and science must be part of any meaningful long-term” economic recovery strategy.

President-elect Barack Obama has promised to make math and science education a “national priority.” He said the federal government would work with states to improve science education beginning in preschool, and he plans to create a teaching scholarship program to recruit graduates with backgrounds in math and science to classrooms.