Illinois TIMSS scores support Learning Standards


April 4, 2001 

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Springfield – Illinois’ scores on the Third International Mathematics and Science Study-1999  (TIMSS) underscore the State Board of Education’s belief that the Illinois Learning Standards are helping to improve student achievement. 

However, the TIMSS-1999 data also illuminate the “achievement gap” between students from wealthier backgrounds – who posted higher scores on TIMSS-1999 – and low-income students who generally did not perform as well.  

“Overall, Illinois’ TIMSS-1999 scores were above the international and national averages.  They help demonstrate that a rigorous, standards-led system that challenges all students, when properly implemented, drives achievement upward,” said State Superintendent of Education Glenn W. McGee, speaking today at a news conference about the new test scores. 

TIMSS is an international benchmarking study comparing the achievement of eighth-grade students from Illinois and 12 other states, 14 districts or consortia taking the test independently and 38 countries worldwide including the United States. The test was most recently given in 1999.  

TIMSS assesses students on the same kind of challenging information as standards-led tests like the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), McGee said.  “Our statewide scores indicate that our students can meet high expectations like those set out in the Illinois Learning Standards.   At the same time, the scores also show that Illinois’ best students rank with the world’s best students,” he said.  

Naperville District #203 scored higher in science than any other country, state or school district/ consortium in the world. The First in the World Consortium – a group of 18 northwest suburban school districts – performed similarly to the top-performing countries in both math and science. 

“We will work with and learn from these fine school districts so that we can share their best practices with other districts,” McGee said.

The TIMSS-1999 data and other assessment results are important tools for continuing to improve math and science achievement statewide, he said. The State Board of Education has made mathematics one of its top five education priorities.  The Board has also proposed that $8.6 million be appropriated for scientific literacy programs statewide. 

“We will use the new TIMSS-1999 data to help plan future education initiatives, and to continue to promote the importance of math and science as cornerstones of an effective education system,” McGee said.  

McGee also praised the Chicago Public Schools for their participation in the TIMSS assessment.

It was one of only a few urban districts to voluntarily take part in TIMSS-1999.  Their scores were below the international and U.S. averages for math and science, but he lauded the state’s largest district for its courage and vision. 

“Chicago showed great commitment to its students and community by taking part in TIMSS and pledging to use the data to improve its programs,” McGee said. “Everyone in District 299 will benefit from such leadership.” 

The Achievement Gap.  The TIMSS-1999 scores also confirm, as illustrated by the Chicago results, that poverty clearly has a negative impact on student achievement, McGee said.   

Fifty-six percent of Naperville District 203 students who took TIMSS-1999 reported having high levels of home educational resources available, including a computer, more than 100 books in their homes, a study table and dictionary, and at least one parent with a complete university education. 

Conversely, the percent of students who reported receiving free or reduced-price lunches – a traditional indicator of poverty – also shows that districts with more and better educational resources tend to post higher TIMSS scores.  Only 2 percent of Naperville’s student body reported receiving free or reduced lunches, compared to 71 percent of Chicago students. 

“We have been saying for some time.  The state must dedicate its efforts to ensuring that each of our two million students get the high quality education they need and deserve, regardless of their socioeconomic status,” McGee said. 

The Results.  When TIMSS was first given in 1995, about 2,400 Illinois eighth-graders participated  as part of a national sampling. The First in the World Consortium took the test separately to assess its own curriculum.  

In 1999, 4,781 Illinois 8th graders took the TIMSS test.  Another 1,132 Chicago students participated, along with 750 from the First in the World Consortium and 1,212 students from Naperville District 203. 

Overall, the state’s 1999 scores were above both the international and U.S. averages.

  • The average score for mathematics was 509, above the international average of 487 and the U.S. average of 502. In 1995 the Illinois math score was 488, below both the international average (513) and the U.S. average (534.)
  • Illinois’ average science score was 521, above the international average (488) and the U.S. average (515.) In 1995 Illinois averaged a 514 on the science test, below the international and U.S. averages, 516 and 534 respectively.
  • Illinois is above the U.S. and international scores in all areas of math (fractions, measurement, data representation and algebra) except for geometry. Similarly, Illinois scored higher than the U.S. and international averages in all science areas (earth science, life science, physics, chemistry, environmental science and science inquiry.)

Next Steps.  “We will use the new TIMSS-1999 data to help plan future education initiatives, and to continue to promote the importance of math and science as cornerstones of an effective education system, McGee said.  

Part of the State Board’s efforts will be to create a TIMSS-1999 Task Force that will include representatives of Naperville, Chicago and the First in the World Consortium.  The Task Force’s efforts, plus staff analyses of the data, will yield a great deal of information to help improve teaching and learning in mathematics and science in Illinois schools. 

In the meantime, the State Board will offer professional development opportunities in science through Building a Presence, a network established by the National Science Teachers Association.  It links educators to a nationwide science learning community and provides increased professional development opportunities for science teachers. 

The State Board will also offer similar professional development opportunities in mathematics through CORD, an online algebra course for teachers; M2T2, Mathematics Materials for Teaching Teachers in the middle grades; an Administrators Academy component for training superintendents about mathematics instruction; and Math on Monday, a series of teacher workshops focusing on Illinois’ five mathematics goals of number sense, algebra, geometry, measurement, statistics and probability. 

"What the Results Mean for Illinois".  Video message from Superintendent McGee.