Mathematics Benchmarking Report TIMSS 1999–Eighth Grade




CHAPTER 7: School Contexts for Learning and Instruction

What School Resources Are Available to Support Mathematics Learning?

Some school resources are specific to mathematics, but many are general resources that improve learning opportunities across the curriculum. All the available resources can work together to support mathematics learning and instruction. TIMSS collected data on a range of school resources, including those of a general nature such as buildings and infrastructure, as well as equipment and materials specifically related to mathematics learning.

To measure the extent of school resources in each participating entity, TIMSS created an index of availability of school resources for mathematics instruction (ASRMI). As described in Exhibit 7.2, the index is based on schools’ average response to five questions about shortages that affect their general capacity to provide instruction and five questions about shortages that affect mathematics instruction in particular. Students were placed in the high category if principals reported that shortages, both general and for mathematics in particular, had no or little effect on instructional capacity. The medium level indicates that one type of shortage affects instruction some or a lot, and the low level that both shortages affect it some or a lot.

Schools in the United States appear to be fairly well-resourced in comparison with the TIMSS 1999 countries. Across the United States as a whole, 37 percent of students were in schools reporting that resource shortages had little effect on instruction, compared with 19 percent on average internationally. Of the reference countries, only Belgium (Flemish), Singapore, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands reported higher percentages in this category. Across the Benchmarking participants, reports varied widely. In the Academy School District, the First in the World Consortium, and Naperville, more than 75 percent of students were in well-resourced schools, whereas in North Carolina and Oregon 17 percent or less were in such schools.

In many of the Benchmarking jurisdictions and TIMSS 1999 countries, students in schools in the high category had higher average mathematics achievement than those in the low category. For example, in the United States 37 percent of the students were in the high category with an average mathematics achievement of 516, compared with four percent in the low category with an average of 480. However, the relationship between a country’s average mathematics achievement and availability of instructional resources is complex. For example, in some countries that performed significantly above the international average, including Korea, Chinese Taipei, and the Russian Federation, few students (six percent or less) were in schools with high availability of resources for mathematics instruction. In contrast, in other high-performing countries such as Belgium (Flemish) and the Netherlands, no students were in schools with low availability of resources.

Exhibit R4.1 in the reference section shows the results for each of the types of facilities and materials summarized in the general capacity part of the index. There was substantial variation across countries, but internationally on average, nearly half the students were in schools where mathematics instruction was negatively affected by shortages or in-adequacies in instructional materials, the budget for supplies, school buildings, and instructional space. Generally, the Benchmarking participants reported fewer students in schools where mathematics instruction was negatively affected by resource shortages, but again the situation varied widely across jurisdictions. Shortage of instructional space was a problem in Oregon, the Fremont/Lincoln/Westside Public Schools, Jersey City, Miami-Dade, and Montgomery County, where more than half of the eighth-grade students were affected. Inadequate school buildings or grounds were also a problem in Miami-Dade, and Oregon had more than half its students in schools that reported shortages of instructional materials and budget for supplies.

Exhibit R4.2, also in the reference section, shows the results for each of the types of equipment and materials summarized in the mathematics instructional capacity part of the index. More than half the students, on average across all the TIMSS 1999 countries, were in schools where shortages or inadequacies in computers and computer software affected the capacity to provide mathematics instruction. Although the Benchmarking entities generally reported fewer students affected by such shortages, Idaho, Missouri, North Carolina, and the Delaware Science Coalition had a majority of their students affected by shortages of both computers and computer software, and many other jurisdictions came close. No participants reported a majority of students affected by shortages in calculators or library materials, and only Chicago had a majority affected by shortages in audio-visual resources.

Exhibits R4.3 and R4.4 in the reference section present more data on access to computers and the Internet for instructional purposes. Benchmarking participants appear to be relatively well equipped with computers, compared with countries internationally, as almost all students were in schools with fewer than 15 students per computer. Internet access was also widespread across Benchmarking entities. In all states except Indiana, Missouri, and Pennsylvania, more than 90 percent of students were in schools with Internet access. School districts with relatively low levels of Internet access were those in Rochester (69 percent) and Chicago (just 44 percent).

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TIMSS 1999 is a project of the International Study Center
Boston College, Lynch School of Education