Science Benchmarking Report TIMSS 1999–Eighth Grade




CHAPTER 7: School Contexts for Learning and Instruction

What School Resources Are Available to Support
Science Learning?

TIMSS collected data on a range of school resources, including those of a general nature such as buildings and infrastructure, as well as laboratory equipment and other materials specifically related to science learning. To measure the extent of school resources in each participating entity, TIMSS created an index of availability of school resources for science instruction (ASRSI). 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 six questions about shortages that affect science instruction in particular. Students were placed in the high category if principals reported that shortages, both general and for science 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, 34 percent of students were in schools reporting that resource shortages had little effect on instruction, compared with 18 percent on average internationally. Of the reference countries, only Belgium (Flemish), Singapore, and the Czech Republic 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 South Carolina, Oregon, and North Carolina 15 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 science achievement than those in the low category. For example, in the United States 34 percent of the students were in the high category with an average science achievement of 531, compared with six percent in the low category with an average of 512. However, the relationship between a country’s average science 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 (seven percent or less) were in schools with high availability of resources for science instruction. In contrast, in other high-performing countries such as Belgium (Flemish), the Czech Republic, England, Japan, the Netherlands, and Singapore, five percent or less of the 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 science instruction was negatively affected by shortages or inadequacies in instructional materials, the budget for supplies, school buildings, and instructional space. Generally, the Benchmarking participants reported fewer students in schools where science 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 science instructional capacity part of the index. About 60 percent of 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 science instruction. Although the Benchmarking entities generally reported fewer students affected by such shortages, Idaho, North Carolina, Oregon, the Delaware Science Coalition, and Rochester were similar to the international average. Shortages of both computers and computer software were also reported for a majority of the students in Maryland, Missouri, and Texas. The United States as a whole reported that 38 percent of the students were in schools where shortages in science laboratory equipment and materials affected the capacity to provide instruction, compared with 58 percent internationally. However, a majority of the students in Idaho, North Carolina, Oregon, Chicago, and the Delaware Science Coalition were in such schools. North Carolina also reported shortages in library materials and audio-visual resources for science instruction.

Exhibits R4.3 and Exhibit 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 Benchmarking is a project of the International Study Center
Boston College, Lynch School of Education