NSF PR 00-91 - December 5, 2000
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Math & Science Improvements Still Needed in Middle School, Repeat
Results of the recent Third International Mathematics and Science Study
Repeat (TIMSS-R), announced today by the Department of Education's National
Center for Education Statistics (NCES), confirms previous evidence that
the U.S. needs to strengthen efforts in math and science education in
middle school, say officials of the National Science Foundation (NSF),
which co-funded the study.
"The initial TIMSS study four years ago focused national attention
on the fact that U.S. K-12 students fare poorly in worldwide comparisons
of math and science preparation," says Rita Colwell, NSF director. "The
extensive TIMSS-R data will be a valuable resource in NSF's continuing
efforts to understand these weaknesses and to overcome them."
"The lack of competitiveness of U.S. K-12 students has much larger
ramifications than simply providing enough mathematicians and scientists
for laboratories," Colwell said.
"In these technological times, general scientific and mathematical
literacy is crucial to the entire workforce and has implications for our
economy into the future," Colwell added.
TIMSS-R confirms findings of the original TIMSS study four years ago
that the relative standing of U.S. students slips between the 4th and
8th grade, says Judith Sunley, NSF interim assistant director for education
and human resources.
"This finding reaffirms our belief that the U.S. needs to focus
on stronger math and science preparation in middle school," Sunley says.
"The curricula at that level are not strong and teachers are not as well
prepared as they are in the countries that perform better, where the teachers
are more likely to hold degrees in the disciplines they are teaching."
While the study indicates that all students seem to be doing better
in mathematics since the first TIMSS, the gap between the performance
levels of minority and majority students remains a serious concern, Sunley
The information released today represents only part of the TIMSS-R study.
In the spring, NCES plans to release information about the 27 U.S. jurisdictions
that took the TIMSS-R test as individual "nations." The results will allow
those jurisdictions to see exactly how they compare with the countries
in the study.
Another part of the TIMSS study involved placing video cameras in classrooms
to allow analysis of classroom environment, teacher and student interaction
and behavior and other factors in the varied cultures. The video study
results will be released later in 2001.
Editors: Colwell spoke at the TIMSS-R news conference today in
Washington, D.C. For her comments, see: http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/forum/colwell/start.htm
For more information about TIMSS-R, see: http://nces.ed.gov/timss/timss-r/index.asp