Minnesota TIMSS Report
Summary of Minnesota Eighth Grade
- The performance of Minnesota eighth grade students in mathematics and science achievement reflects both strengths and weaknesses.
- Minnesota eighth-graders scored about the international average in mathematics.
- They scored well above the international average in science(among the top countries).
- They scored above the U.S. average in all specific content areas but showed the same wide range of individual scores.
Being among the best in the U.S. is not the same as being first in the world.
- Minnesota’s consistently strong performance in mathematics and science compared to the rest of the U.S. looks different in an international context.
- Eighth grade mathematics in Minnesota is seventh grade mathematics by international standards.
- As the recent results on U.S. NAEP testing show, some Minnesota students–particularly some minority groups– still lag far behind their peers in mathematics achievement at the eighth grade, a fact hidden by the single average Minnesota score for mathematics on the TIMSS tests.
We cannot ascribe Minnesota’s relative success (compared to the rest of the U.S.) to our homogeneous population.
- The range of student scores from top to bottom in Minnesota is similar to the range of scores for all U.S. students.
- The high average performance in science and middling performance in mathematics were achieved essentially by the same group of students (in other words, we have to look to factors other than student background or socio-economic standing to account for the difference in scores between mathematics and science).
- Unlike the U.S. results, there was a significant difference in performance between boys and girls in science (though not in mathematics) in the Minnesota TIMSS testing.
TIMSS shows the importance of focus in curricular materials and instructional practices.
- We are lowest in measurement and geometry in large part because we emphasize arithmetic, without focus on geometry and measurement.
- We score high in earth sciences and life sciences primarily because we emphasize these subjects at the seventh and eighth grade levels.
- Minnesota did particularly well in science (on TIMSS) primarily because the major factors contributing to success were relatively well aligned.
- Course offerings are consistent statewide (eighth grade science in Minnesota is earth science, the content area we scored highest in), and a majority of teachers use the same or similar textbooks.
- There is little tracking in eighth grade science, as compared to eighth grade mathematics.
- Teacher licensing supports the curriculum focus.
- The tradition of inquiry-oriented instruction and the long-standing availability of appropriate materials (kits, etc.) also help explain Minnesota’s strong showing in science.
The focus and coherence of the components of the system, not any one part of the system in isolation, make the difference in how Minnesota performs as a whole.
- The international TIMSS results show that it’s not who is taking the test, or how much homework or time on task students have, or length of school day or school year, that makes the biggest difference in student performance.
- The U.S. performance on TIMSS shows the weaknesses of an unfocused curriculum and instructional approaches, further complicated by use of diverse and unaligned assessments.
- Minnesota’s performance on TIMSS illustrates the power of alignment (as reflected in our science scores) and the problems with lack of focus (as reflected in our mathematics performance).
- Even in science, we still need to improve — to move beyond traditional approaches and to close the gender gap (and similar performance gaps which may exist for other under-performing groups of students).
- The national standards provide a potentially powerful source of direction and focus for Minnesota mathematics and science, but the danger is uneven implementation (some districts use the standards, some don’t) or burden by addition (adding recommendations from the standards without taking anything away from the existing curriculum).