WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Knowledge of advanced mathematics and physics has not changed among the United States' most advanced high school students since 1995, according to a new report. However, in that same time period, U.S. fourth- and eighth-graders have improved in mathematics. The results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) show that U.S. eighth-graders have also improved in mathematics since 2011, while scores for fourth graders have held steady. The 2015 TIMSS results were released today by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
"This report gives us important new information about the high school gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)," said Peggy G. Carr, acting commissioner of NCES. "TIMSS results show increasing similarities in mathematics and science achievement between the genders at the fourth and eighth grades. The story is much different for advanced twelfth-graders."
Males in twelfth grade scored 46 points higher than females in physics and 30 points higher than females in advanced mathematics—even though there was no measurable difference between males and females in eighth-grade mathematics, and a five-point difference between males and females in eighth-grade science.
The report, Highlights from TIMSS and TIMSS Advanced 2015, compares the performance of U.S. fourth- and eighth-grade students in mathematics and science to the performance of their peers in more than 50 countries and other education systems across six continents. The report includes results from TIMSS Advanced, which was administered to advanced twelfth-graders in nine countries.
"This was the first time since 1995 that the United States participated in TIMSS Advanced, the only international assessment of twelfth-grade students enrolled in advanced mathematics and physics courses. This is the group that is most likely to pursue college-level study in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields," Carr continued. "TIMSS Advanced provides essential information that can help policymakers at every level of government understand how well our high schools are preparing the next generation of scientists and engineers."
In fourth-grade math, 10 education systems scored higher, on average, than the United States, while eight systems had higher average scores in eighth-grade math. Mathematics scores improved for U.S. eighth-graders since the last TIMSS assessment in 2011; fourth-grade scores did not change.
In fourth- and eighth-grade science, seven education systems had higher average scores than the United States overall. Average eighth-grade U.S. science scores were higher in 2015 compared to 2011, while average U.S. fourth-grade science scores were not measurably different.
"Fourth- and eighth-grade students in a handful of education systems—almost all in Asia—continue to score higher, on average, than students in the United States," Carr said. "But U.S. students in fourth and eighth grade have made considerable progress in mathematics since the mid-1990s, mirroring long-term improvement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, our nation's report card."
State-level results are available for one U.S. state, Florida, for fourth- and eighth-grade mathematics and science. Average scores for Florida fourth- and eighth-grade students were lower in 2015 compared to 2011 in both subjects.
The full report is available at https://nces.ed.gov/timss/.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System, is the statistical center of the U.S. Department of Education and the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations. A part of the Institute of Education Sciences, NCES fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report complete statistics on the condition of American education; conduct and publish reports; and review and report on education activities internationally.
The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is an international comparative study of student achievement. TIMSS 2015 represents the sixth such study since TIMSS was first conducted in 1995. TIMSS assesses the mathematics and science knowledge and skills of fourth- and eighth-graders and is designed to align broadly with mathematics and science curricula in the participating education systems.
TIMSS Advanced is an international comparative study designed to measure the advanced mathematics and physics achievement of students in their final year of high school who had taken or were taking advanced courses. The United States participated in the 1995 and 2015 administrations. Like TIMSS, TIMSS Advanced is designed to align broadly with curricula in the participating education systems and, therefore, to reflect students' school-based learning of advanced mathematics and physics. TIMSS Advanced can inform policymakers, researchers, educators, and the public about the degree to which students in the United States excel in advanced mathematics and physics and may be prepared to undertake more specialized study in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics compared to their international peers.
TIMSS and TIMSS Advanced are both sponsored by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) and managed in the United States by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education.
SOURCE National Center for Education Statistics