Ed. Dept. Delays International Data Comparison Again

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States will have to wait a while longer to learn how their students stack up against those in other countries.

The Department of Education has postponed for the second time--this time indefinitely--its effort to help states compare their performance on the assessment known as the nation's report card with how they would have fared on international exams.

The project is supposed to create a link between states' National Assessment of Educational Progress scores in mathematics for 4th and 8th graders and in science for 8th graders and the predicted performance of those grades on the Third International Mathematics and Science Study.

The results of the exercise had already been delayed once since the anticipated release date of July 1.

The link would allow states that participated in the 1996 NAEP to see how they did against the 41 countries that took part in the 8th grade TIMSS and the 26 countries that participated in the 4th grade version of the 1994-95 study.

Pascal D. Forgione Jr., the commissioner of education statistics at the Education Department, early last month again put off releasing the information because of unexplained discrepancies discovered during a double-check of the process.

What did not match up were the predicted TIMSS scores in 4th grade math and the actual scores on TIMSS for Colorado and Minnesota, two states that took part both in TIMSS and the state-level NAEP, along with foreign countries, in the international math and science testing.

The 8th grade scores did not yield such problems.

Disappointing Delay

"Because of these discrepancies at the 4th grade, we think it prudent to check our procedures and data thoroughly before publishing any results," Mr. Forgione said in an Aug. 1 letter to the chief state school officers.

In an interview last month, Mr. Forgione said he did not know when the score matchup might be ready.

The NAEP-TIMSS linkage is not a burning issue for state officials, he contended. "It was kind of like an extra freebie I was trying to give the states," Mr. Forgione said.

In Colorado, the delay is disappointing but not disastrous, said Don Watson, the state's testing director.

He said that state officials had hoped to release Colorado's TIMSS scores in July but will hold off until the federal statistics center completes the nexus.

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  • Read about the international TIMSS comparison at the TIMSS site hosted by Boston College.
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