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Topic: Compilation of comments on the TIMSS-Forum List
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Compilation of comments on the TIMSS-Forum List
Posted: Nov 3, 1998 5:39 PM
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[Note: From a staff member monitoring the TIMSS-Forum listserve. FYI.]

The following comments were posted in earlier messages on the list:

1. Only a concerted State and Federal effort toward recruitment and
quality education and
training will alleviate this issue and only in the long run.

2. Until teachers are better compensated, and achieve higher status as
professionals, it
is difficult to see how we can reverse this trend.

3. But real planning time and time to get together with colleagues would
be very helpful

4. that's what happens when the books are written for sale, not for
consumption, that's
why 90% of them are trash.

5. We need to shift our focus and resources to include pre-service and
look at innovative
ways of bringing new teachers into the profession.

6. any reform effort which requires teachers to spend a lot of time
preparing new
material or instructional approaches will probably not be successful.

7. I do not doubt for a minute that there are shortages for math and
science teachers in
many areas. However, my experience in the metropolitan Philadelphia, PA
area is that this
is not true. There are more applicants than openings in that area making it
a buyer's


To quote my colleague: "The value of TIMSS is that it is one effort to
provide some data upon which to come up with smarter solutions to
problems." And, in
fact, suggestions #1-3 above actually are being implemented in some of the
TIMSS countries
where students are achieving well in mathematics and science. The question
now is how do
we implement the suggestions in the U.S.?

Each suggestion above is a necessary but not sufficient component in and of
Recruitment and quality training (both for pre-service and in-service) are
Time for teachers to work together is critically important. Better support
materials are
important. Better compensation for teachers (in some regions*) is
important. More
equitable distribution of qualified teachers is important.

However,those offering professional development are spinning their wheels
in the face of
the American reality of thousands of districts that determine their own
curriculum and
districts within which individual schools are doing their own individual
thing. How can
pre-service and in-service institutions properly prepare students to teach
when they don't
know where to begin in supporting which curriculum?

In response to comment #6 - NSF, over the last 10 years, has funded the
development of
curriculum programs in mathematics, which should save schools the chore and
time of
developing their own curriculum and materials. But these curriculum
programs can be
implemented successfully only if intensive, ongoing professional
development is provided
(NOT defined as 3-5 isolated inservice days/year). Yet, there are many
schools that are
selecting these NSF curriculum materials without giving thought to
providing teachers with
the necessary professional development.

Re comment #2 about better compensation for teachers and comment #7 that
there is no lack
of qualified mathematics teachers in his/her area* - until we find a better
way of funding
education than through property tax**, we will continue to suffer from
inequities in
teacher qualification, as described earlier by members of this list. In
one of the other
TIMSS countries, in an effort to maintain equity in teaching quality,
teachers are moved
every 6-9 years. This option probably would not be appealing or practical
in this
country, but can we come up with some other solutions in lieu of standing
still wringing
our hands?

* Teachers in some communities in this area make up to $90K annually.
** Several years ago Michigan stopped funding education with property tax;
property tax
was lowered and the state sales tax was increased from 4% to 6%. All
districts now are
funded on a per pupil basis. The end result is that the richer districts
gave up some,
and the less wealthy schools gained some. The outcome depends on one's
perspective (interestingly, Gov. Engler is a Republican, not a Democrat).

Additional factors that impact teacher qualification and retention include
the reality
that our national and state standards were developed pre-TIMSS, and they
all still contain
too many topics. What districts and/or states currently are revising their
standards in
light of TIMSS? What innovative solutions are districts/schools developing
to find more
time for teachers to plan and to work together?

Is anyone out there actually using the TIMSS data to inform decision-making
in schools?
If so, how?

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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