Statement by Dr. Tjeerd Plomp
CHAIRMAN, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE EVALUATION OF EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT (IEA)
June 10, 1997
IEA AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TIMSS
On Release of Third International Mathematics and Science Study Results
Today, IEA is releasing the achievement results of the third- and fourth-grade students from our Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The release today follows the release of the achievement results of the seventh- and eighth-grade students on November 20, 1996. Those seventh- and eighth-grade results have been presented at national press conferences in more than 25 countries and received prominent attention in the media in all participating countries.
Those of you who have followed the reactions to the press coverage of those results know that TIMSS has attracted the attention of policy makers and educators around the world. For example, President Clinton referred to the TIMSS study in his 1997 State of the Union address, raising the profile of TIMSS in the United States. The U.S. Department of Education is now encouraging states and school districts to administer the TIMSS tests and questionnaires to their students so that they can compare their results with those of the international community. In other countries, too, the TIMSS results have evoked much discussion about the quality of mathematics and science education. Without a doubt we can expect the TIMSS results to influence the policies and practices related to the teaching of mathematics and science around the world. The results for third- and fourth-grade students, which will be released this morning, will be a further catalyst for this.
TIMSS is a genuine international endeavor in which countries from all regions of the world came together to study the teaching and learning of mathematics and science.
With 45 countries participating, five grades assessed in two school subjects, and more than half a million students tested in more than 30 languages, TIMSS is the largest and most ambitious study of comparative educational achievement ever undertaken.
Individuals in research centers throughout the world have been working towards this day for more than five years. TIMSS has taken such effort because of its many different components:
Staff from the TIMSS International Study Center will highlight some of the achievement results from primary-school students which are presented in the reports released today. They will also present some comparisons between primary- and middle-school results.
Other reports will be released later this year and next year containing the achievement results for secondary-school students and the results of primary- and middle-school students on the performance assessment. Besides the reports of achievement results, other international TIMSS publications have appeared recently, such as the results of the curriculum analyses for mathematics and science, and the TIMSS encyclopedia describing how the teaching and learning of mathematics and science is organized in the participating countries.
Taking into account all of its components, including curriculum and achievement results, TIMSS provides ample opportunity for countries to examine the content and rigor of what is being taught and learned in science and mathematics classrooms.
The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) is proud to be the sponsor of TIMSS. The IEA an independent international cooperative of research centers. It is made up of 53 educational systems, represented by research institutions or governmental research agencies.
Our aim is to conduct comparative studies that focus on educational policies and practices so as to enhance learning within and across systems of education. Since its inception in 1959, the IEA has conducted more than 15 studies of cross-national achievement. We are committed to a cycle of studies of learning in the basic school subjects of mathematics, science and reading, and to additional studies that may be of particular interest to policy makers, educational practitioners, and of course our members.
IEA studies of international assessment provide information about a wide variety of education policies, programs and practices across different countries and cultures. This information helps our members to understand better the advantages and shortfalls of their own educational systems. TIMSS is providing policy makers and educational practitioners with high-quality indicators of how well their education systems are functioning in comparison with others.
Indicators for achievement in mathematics and the sciences are interesting in and of themselves, but providing evidence that the students in 'my' country are doing better or worse than a competitor in the 'global market' does little to explain how such differences arise. Such differences can have many possible causes, including differences in the content of the curriculum, tracking or streaming practices, classroom time on task, amount of homework, class size, and so forth. To provide policy makers with a better understanding of the complex interplay among such factors and the most promising avenues to effective teaching and learning, we need further in-depth analyses of the extremely rich TIMSS database.
TIMSS also is unique in the widespread global collaboration that made the study possible. The scale of TIMSS demanded the development of innovative, state-of-the-art applications in sampling, scaling, analysis, and reporting techniques. To accomplish a task of this magnitude, the International Study Center here at Boston College coordinates a network of expert methodologists from around the world that works in conjunction with the national centers to bring each step of TIMSS to fruition. That we are here today is a tribute to all concerned.
It is also a testimony to the countries that had the foresight to embark on this remarkable endeavor, each one committing the resources necessary to conduct TIMSS in their own country. IEA is deeply indebted to the thousands of principals, teachers, and students who gave so generously of their time to participate in TIMSS. The overall coordination of a project as complex as TIMSS, initially by the University of British Columbia and for the past four years by Boston College, requires substantial financial support. As chairman of IEA, I want to express my great appreciation to the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. National Science Foundation, and Government of Canada for funding the international coordination costs. In conclusion, I want especially to congratulate Drs. Albert Beaton, Michael Martin, and Ina Mullis as well as the staff members at this center for their extraordinary efforts and dedication in directing the TIMSS project.