Reading the TIMSS Results
Why the Good News May Not Be So Good
Today, the National Center for Education Statistics released the results of the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. TIMSS is a highly regarded international assessment, and 2007 was the fourth time it has been given. TIMSS assesses the performance of students in 4th and 8th grades and provides an international benchmark against which we can judge the performance of our students compared with that of students in 35 other countries at grade 4, and 47 other countries at grade 8.
A superficial reading of this report could lead the reader to believe that the United States is doing well in science and math. But this would be a mistake—the United States is doing far worse internationally than TIMSS indicates. I will focus on the mathematics assessment to illustrate why.
Both 4th and 8th graders in the United States scored above the international average set in TIMSS—our 4th grade students achieved a TIMSS average score of 529 points, and our 8th graders scored 508, compared with an international average that is set at 500 for each grade. The U.S. scores were higher than the average scores in around two-thirds of the countries in the 4th grade math assessment and more than three-quarters of the countries at the 8th grade. In addition, U.S. students’ scores had increased significantly since 1995, when...
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