Science Benchmarking Report TIMSS 1999–Eighth Grade




CHAPTER 2: Performance at International Benchmarks

Achievement at the Lower Quarter Benchmark

Exhibit 2.20 describes performance at the Lower Quarter Benchmark. At this level of performance, students typically could demonstrate knowledge of some basic facts about the earth’s physical features and could use information presented in simple diagrams. In Example Item 17 (see Exhibit 2.21), 82 percent of students internationally were able to interpret the pictorial diagram of the earth’s layers and identify the center as the hottest layer. Among Benchmarking participants, almost all students (85 percent or more) gave the correct answer.

In the life sciences, students at the Lower Quarter Benchmark showed some basic knowledge of human biology. A full 87 percent of students internationally recognized that exercise causes an increase in their breathing and pulse rates (see Example Item 18 in Exhibit 2.22). Performance on this item was even higher in the United States and most Benchmarking jurisdictions. Student performance exceeded the international average in the United States overall and in 19 of the Benchmarking entities, and was not significantly below the international average in any entity. However, typically only students scoring at higher benchmarks could relate the link between exercise and pulse and breathing rate to the function of the circulatory or respiratory system.

At the Lower Quarter Benchmark, students could recognize some facts about familiar physical phenomena. In Example Item 19 in Exhibit 2.23, they demonstrated basic knowledge of light reflection by recognizing that white surfaces reflect more light than colored surfaces. Internationally and in the United States, more than 80 percent of students answered this item correctly. Among Benchmarking participants, only in Naperville, Michigan, and Montgomery County was the percentage of students choosing the correct answer significantly greater than the international average.

Students at the Lower Quarter Benchmark could also recognize that there is greater evaporation from a larger surface area, as shown in Example Item 20 in Exhibit 2.24. Internationally on average, 84 percent of students could interpret the pictorial diagrams showing liquid in containers of different shapes and identify the container with the largest surface area as the one from which the liquid would evaporate first Performance was at about the international average on this question in the United States and in many of the Benchmarking jurisdictions. However, performance in First in the World, the Academy School District, Project smart, Naperville, and Michigan was significantly above the international average. In each of these entities, the item was answered correctly by more than 90 percent of the eighth-grade students.

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