Science Benchmarking Report TIMSS 1999–Eighth Grade




CHAPTER 3: Average Achievement in the Science Content Areas

In Which Content Areas Are Countries Relatively Strong or Weak?

For purposes of comparison, Exhibit 3.2 profiles the relative performance in science content areas within the comparison countries, while Exhibit 3.3 provides the corresponding information for the Benchmarking states and Exhibit 3.4 for the districts and consortia. These exhibits display the difference between average performance in each content area and average science performance overall, highlighting any variation. The profiles reveal that as in the participating countries, students in many of the Benchmarking jurisdictions performed relatively better or worse in several content areas than they did overall. For example, the Benchmarking entities generally approximated the US pattern of performing better in life science and in scientific inquiry and the nature of science than they did overall.

In particular, a number of jurisdictions had relatively high performance in scientific inquiry and the nature of science, including Maryland, Massachusetts, Chicago, Jersey City, Montgomery County, and Naperville. Although the difference was not large, physics was the content area in which the performance of students in the United States was weakest relative to overall science performance. Several of the Benchmarking participants also had relatively low physics performance, although only in South Carolina and the Fremont/Lincoln/Westside Public Schools was the difference statistically significant.

Differences in relative performance may be related to one or more of a number of factors, such as emphases in intended curricula or widely used textbooks, strengths or weaknesses in curriculum implementation, and the grade level at which topics are introduced. For the Benchmarking entities, the patterns of relative strengths and weaknesses profiled in Exhibit 3.3 and Exhibit 3.4 are sometimes reflected in strengths and weaknesses relative to other countries and the United States (shown in Exhibit 3.1).

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