Stop Copying Others: TIMSS Lessons for America
TIMSS has become one of the two most influential international testing programs in the world today, the other being PISA. First introduced in 1995, TIMSS is conducted every four years to assess math and science learning in fourth and eighth grade. It has had significant impact on math and science education in the world over the last 20 years. Its impact on the U.S. education policies and practices over the last two decades cannot be overstated. According to the TIMSS 2015 Encyclopedia:
In the late 1990s, when the results of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study were released, TIMSS became a standard policy citation to emphasize that US student performance in mathematics and science was not leading the world. Between 1999 and 2002, state and national educational reformers across the country regularly used the results of TIMSS 1995 and TIMSS 1999 to make this point in editorials and articles.i During these years, more than three dozen congressional statements, debates, and bills cited TIMSS results to justify passing specific education bills, or to call for reforms in education to keep the United States internationally competitive.
So after 20 years of learning from TIMSS, what has the U.S. achieved? (All data from TIMSS publications.)
The gap in scores remains.
In terms of test scores, the U.S. has certainly improved, but so have other countries. So the gap between U.S. students and East Asian students remain as large as 20 years ago (Figs 1 & 2).
As test scores went up, students’ confidence and attitude toward math came down.
While both students in the U.S. and East Asian education systems all improved over the last two decades, their confidence in math declined. Likewise, not as many students valued math in 2015 as in 1995. Figures 3, 4, and 5 capture this trend.
But the U.S. still has more students reporting confidence in math and valuing math than East Asian students.
More students in the U.S. reported having more confidence and valuing math more than students in East Asian countries in 20 years ago. It is still so despite the global decline.
U.S. seems to have learned all lessons suggested by TIMSS but …
Two of the biggest lessons from TIMSS for the U.S. were curriculum and teachers. It was suggested that the high performance of East Asian education systems, Singapore in particular, was the result of a much better curriculum and better teachers.
The U.S. has been benchmarking its curriculum against the high performing systems. The Common Core is just one example, after many states tweaked their math curricula. As a result, the 2015 TIMSS results Education in the Age of Globalization » Blog Archive » Stop Copying Others: TIMSS Lessons for America: