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Math, Science Study To Spawn Host Of Research Projects

By David J. Hoff — December 13, 2000 3 min read

Test scores released last week are only the first in a series of research generated by the Third International Mathematics and Science Study—Repeat.

As with the first edition of the study, the Department of Education plans to unveil a series of reports that explain how teaching in the United States measures up against international standards and how well student achievement in specific states and regions compares to that of students in other countries. For TIMSS-R, the supplementary reports are expected to be expanded and to provide more detail than the study’s 1995 project.

“Taken together, these components provide a wealth of information on the international context within which student learning takes place,” Gary W. Phillips, the acting federal commissioner of education statistics, said when releasing the test-score results here last week.

Next April, the Education Department is scheduled to release scores from 13 states and 14 school districts that administered the TIMSS exams to their students. The scores will allow each jurisdiction to compare student achievement against the international average and the results for the 38 countries that participated in the study.

In 1995, a consortium of 20 suburban Chicago districts gave the TIMSS tests to a large enough sample of the districts’ students to receive valid test scores that showed they ranked near the top of the world on the tests. (“Clinton, Test Scores Put Ill. Consortium on the Map,” Jan. 29, 2000.)

Two years later, Missouri and Oregon administered the tests to sample groups of their students. Both scored above the national average.

The Chicago-area group—called the First in the World Consortium—participated in the second round of testing so it will be able to compare 8th graders’ achievement between 1995 and 1999. The consortium also will be able to see how it matches up against a diverse group of districts that includes the urban Chicago district; the affluent Montgomery County, Md., schools in suburban Washington; and Pittsburgh and the 11 counties surrounding it in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Both Missouri and Oregon will again see how well their students score on the international assessment. Connecticut, Illinois, Texas, and eight other states will get TIMSS data for the first time.

While a limited number of states actually gave the TIMSS tests, any state that participated in this year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress will be able to compare its students’ math and science achievement with the national average. Education Department research-ers are designing mathematical formulas that will estimate how a state’s students would have scored on TIMSS based on their NAEP performance.

The study is slated for release next December, Mr. Phillips said.

Candid Camera

Next October, the Education Department is planning to release the second study of teaching strategies from several countries to be generated from the international project.

The 1995 study videotaped math teachers at work in the United States, Germany, and Japan. Researchers James W. Stigler and James Hiebert concluded that American teachers focused on skills and failed to explain the underlying principles of mathematics, while their German and Japanese counterparts emphasized the concepts behind the skills they taught. (“New Images of Teaching,” April 9, 1997.)

Mr. Stigler and Mr. Hiebert are now analyzing videotapes of math and science teachers from the United States, Australia, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

In four years, the Education Department and the National Science Foundation may be releasing the next round of TIMSS data.

The International Education Association, the group that sponsors the research, is discussing whether to administer the TIMSS tests again in 2003.

And U.S. officials are still considering whether to participate in that round of testing, Mr. Phillips said.

A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2000 edition of Education Week as Math, Science Study To Spawn Host Of Research Projects

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