MINNESOTA 4TH GRADE STUDENTS SCORE WELL IN INTERNATIONAL MATH, SCIENCE TESTS
St. Paul, Minn., June 1 - Minnesota fourth-graders scored slightly above average in mathematics and well above average in science, according to results released today from the Third International Science and Math Study (TIMSS). The findings are similar to those for eighth-grade students participating in the same study, results which were released last year.
The fourth-grade results are the second report of three to be released involving TIMSS, which is the largest and most thorough international study of mathematics and science education. The study, conducted during the 1995 school year, surveyed school practices and student testing in grade 4, 8 and 12. The eighth-grade results were released in March 1997; the twelfth-grade results will be released later this year.
Minnesota's results were made available by SciMathMN, a statewide partnership of business, education and state government committed to increasing the achievement and participation of all Minnesota students in mathematics and science. SciMathMN sponsored Minnesota's participation in the TIMSS assessments as a "mini-nation" at all three grade levels, making it possible to compare the state's results with those from the U.S. as a whole as well as from the other 40 participating countries.
"Although there are no surprises in the fourth-grade results, we are very pleased that Minnesota students continued to perform above the international averages in mathematics and science. In particular, our science performance was exemplary, with only one country outperforming Minnesota students," said Bill Linder-Scholer, executive director, SciMathMN.
Of the 26 countries that participated in the fourth-grade surveys, Minnesota ranked 13 in mathematics and 2 in science. In science, only Korea scored significantly higher than Minnesota, and the U.S. as a whole was slightly lower than the state. More than 20 countries were significantly lower in science than Minnesota. In mathematics, six countries--Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic--scored significantly higher than Minnesota and nine, including the U.S. as a whole, were not significantly different from Minnesota. Eleven countries had average scores significantly lower than Minnesota and the U.S.
Linder-Scholer said the TIMSS survey provides valuable data on how well Minnesota students are doing compared to students around the world. "Strong math and science education is important because it is a basis for general literacy and workforce readiness. But more important, it is critical for Minnesota's participation in the world economy."
Linder-Scholer said the Minnesota TIMSS findings show that it is what gets taught and how it is taught that makes a significant difference in student performance. Factors such as who is taking the test, how much time is spent on task, how much homework, length of school day or school year, class size have little impact on performance.
"Viewed in an international context, the fourth-grade results show some relative strengths and weaknesses of elementary mathematics and science education in Minnesota, particularly as it existed in the spring of 1995," Linder-Scholer said. "Minnesota fourth-graders perform best in those areas of mathematics and science curriculum emphasized by teachers at that grade level. For example, the weakest areas of performance in math would be fractions, proportionality and estimation--areas least emphasized by our teachers in fourth grade. In science, that would mean physical sciences, which are not emphasized by most Minnesota fourth-grade teachers."
In terms of comparing the fourth-grade results with eighth grade, Minnesota students perform relatively better in science than in mathematics at both the fourth and eighth grades on the TIMSS assessments. In mathematics, Minnesota scored above the international average at both grade levels whereas the U.S. fell from above the international average at grade 4 to below the international average at grade 8. In science, both Minnesota and the U.S. scored well above the international average at grade 4, but at grade 8, the U.S. performance fell significantly below that of Minnesota while remaining above the international average.
TIMSS is the most thorough international study of mathematics and science education ever conducted. All countries participating in the study are included in the student assessments, questionnaires and curriculum analysis. In Japan, Germany and the United States, the project included videotaped observations of mathematics instruction and ethnographic case studies of key policy topics.
Founded in 1993, SciMathMN is a partnership among business, education and government to pursue statewide improvement in the teaching and learning of K-12 mathematics and science based on the national mathematics and science education standards. Its charter focuses on policy, public awareness and professional development. ____________
Bill Linder-Scholer Executive Director, SciMathMN firstname.lastname@example.org or SciMathMN on Internet: www.scimathmn.org