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Topic: Third International Math & Science Study -- 12th grade
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John Luczak

Posts: 3
Registered: 12/4/04
Third International Math & Science Study -- 12th grade
Posted: Feb 24, 1998 6:18 PM
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TODAY, 12TH-GRADE RESULTS from the largest, most
comprehensive international comparison of education ever
undertaken were released by the National Center for
Education Statistics (NCES).

According to the results, from the Third International
Mathematics & Science Study (TIMSS), U.S. 12th-graders'
performance "was among the lowest of the participating
countries in mathematics & science general knowledge,
physics & advanced mathematics."

Secretary Riley said today that "These results are entirely
unacceptable, and absolutely confirm our need to raise our
standards of achievement, testing, and teaching, especially
in our middle & high schools -- and to get more serious
about taking math & science courses."

The Secretary outlined 6 steps:

1. Build a firm foundation by having more students study
algebra & geometry by 8th & 9th grade.

2. Raise state & local standards of academic performance
in mathematics & science.

3. Measure student performance against rigorous standards,
like the voluntary national test in 8th-grade
mathematics.

4. Offer a challenging curriculum & encourage students to
take demanding mathematics & science courses, such as
calculus & physics by 12th grade.

5. Improve the teaching of mathematics & science through
teacher training, and reduce the large number of
teachers teaching out-of-field.

6. Destroy the myth that advanced mathematics & science
are for only a few students.

Also, the Secretary & National Science Foundation Director
Neal Lane announced a $60 million joint "action strategy" to
improve middle school mathematics (executive summary at:
http://www.ed.gov/inits/TIMSS/execsum.html).

Today's report, along with the Secretary's statement & other
information, are available at:
http://www.ed.gov/inits/TIMSS/

Previously released reports on 4th- and 8th-grade results
from TIMSS -- plus actual test items (in PDF only),
information for ordering the TIMSS toolkit and a "videotape
classroom study" of 8th-grade teaching styles in 3 countries
-- can be found at:
http://nces.ed.gov/timss/

Below is the executive summary of today's report, "Pursuing
Excellence: A Study of U.S. 12th-Grade Mathematics & Science
Achievement in International Context."


****************************************************
Executive Summary of "Pursuing Excellence: A Study
of U.S. 12th-Grade Mathematics & Science Achievement
in International Context" (February 24, 1998)
****************************************************

Introduction
~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Third International Mathematics & Science Study (TIMSS)
is the largest, most comprehensive, & most rigorous
international comparison of education ever undertaken.
During 1995, the study assessed the mathematics & science
knowledge of a half-million students from 41 nations at 3
levels of schooling.

The information in this report is about students who were
assessed at the end of 12th grade in the United States & at
the end of secondary education in other countries. It
includes 4 areas of performance: mathematics general
knowledge, science general knowledge, physics, & advanced
mathematics.

This report on students in the final year of secondary
school is the last in a series of 3 public-audience reports
titled "Pursuing Excellence." The first report presented
findings on student achievement at 8th grade. The second
report presented findings from the 4th grade.

TIMSS is a fair & accurate comparison of mathematics &
science achievement in the participating nations. The
students who participated in TIMSS were scientifically
selected to accurately represent students in their
respective nations. The entire assessment process was
scrutinized by international technical review committees to
ensure its adherence to established standards. Those
nations in which irregularities arose, including the United
States, are clearly noted in this & other TIMSS reports.

Criticisms of previous international studies comparing
students near the end of secondary school are not valid for
TIMSS. Because the high enrollment rates for secondary
education in the United States are typical of other TIMSS
countries, our general population is not being compared to
more select groups in other countries. Further, the strict
quality controls ensured that the sample of students taking
the general knowledge assessments was representative of all
students at the end of secondary school, not just those in
academically-oriented programs.

This report consists of 3 parts: initial findings from the
assessments of mathematics & of science general knowledge;
initial findings from assessments of physics & of advanced
mathematics; & initial findings about school systems &
students' lives.

Achievement of All Students
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A sample of all students at the end of secondary school
(12th grade in the United States) was assessed in
mathematics & science general knowledge. Mathematics
general knowledge & science general knowledge are defined as
the knowledge of mathematics & of science needed to function
effectively in society as adults.

U.S. 12th graders performed below the international average
& among the lowest of the 21 TIMSS countries on the
assessment of mathematics general knowledge. U.S. students
were outperformed by those in 14 countries, & outperformed
those in 2 countries. Among the 21 TIMSS nations, our
students' scores were not significantly different from those
in 4 countries.

U.S. 12th graders also performed below the international
average & among the lowest of the 21 TIMSS countries on the
assessment of science general knowledge. U.S. students were
outperformed by students in 11 countries. U.S. students
outperformed students in 2 countries. Our students' scores
were not significantly different from those of 7 countries.

The international standing of U.S. students was stronger at
the 8th grade than at the 12th grade in both mathematics &
science among the countries that participated in assessments
at both grade levels.

The U.S. international standing on the general knowledge
component of TIMSS was higher in science than in
mathematics. This pattern is similar to the findings at 4th
& 8th grades in TIMSS.

The U.S. was 1 of 3 countries that did not have a
significant gender gap in mathematics general knowledge
among students at the end of secondary schooling. While
there was a gender gap in science general knowledge in the
United States, as in every other TIMSS nation except 1, the
U.S. gender gap was one of the smallest.

Achievement of Advanced Students
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The advanced mathematics assessment was administered to
students who had taken or were taking pre-calculus,
calculus, or AP calculus in the United States & to advanced
mathematics students in other countries. The physics
assessment was administered to students in the United States
who had taken or were taking physics or AP physics & to
advanced science students in other countries.

Performance of U.S. physics & advanced mathematics students
was among the lowest of the 16 countries which administered
the physics & advanced mathematics assessments. In advanced
mathematics, 11 countries outperformed the United States &
no countries performed more poorly. In physics, 14
countries outperformed the United States; again, no
countries performed more poorly.

In all 3 content areas of advanced mathematics & in all 5
content areas of physics, U.S. physics & advanced
mathematics students' performance was among the lowest of
the TIMSS nations.

In both physics & advanced mathematics, males outperformed
females in the United States & most of the other TIMSS
countries.

More countries outperformed the United States in physics
than in advanced mathematics. This differs from the results
for mathematics & science general knowledge, as well as the
results at grades 4 & 8, where more countries outperformed
the United States in mathematics than in science.

Contexts of Learning
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It is too early in the process of data analysis to provide
strong evidence to suggest factors that may be related to
the patterns of performance at the end of secondary
schooling described here.

While secondary education in the United States differs
structurally in important dimensions from that in many of
the other countries, in this first analysis, few of those
structural differences are clearly related to the relatively
poor performance of our 12th graders on the TIMSS
assessments.

Although the lives of U.S. graduating students differ from
those of their peers in other countries on several of the
factors examined, few appear to be systematically related to
our performance in 12th grade compared to the other
countries participating in TIMSS.

Further analyses are needed to provide more definitive
insights on these subjects.

Conclusions
~~~~~~~~~~~

U.S. students' performance was among the lowest of the
participating countries in mathematics & science general
knowledge, physics, & advanced mathematics.

TIMSS does not suggest any single factor or combination of
factors that can explain why our performance at 12th grade
is so low relative to other countries at the end of
secondary education.

From our initial analyses, it also appears that some factors
commonly thought to influence individual student performance
are not strongly related to average student performance at
the end of secondary school across countries in TIMSS.

TIMSS provides a rich source of information about student
performance in mathematics & science, & about education in
other countries. These initial findings suggest that to use
the study most effectively, we need to pursue the data
beyond this initial report, taking the opportunity & time to
look at interrelationships among factors in greater depth.


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Judy Wurtzel, John Luczak, Cindy Balmuth &
Peter Kickbush
U.S. Department of Education
john_luczak@ed.gov






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