Ina V.S. Mullis

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TIMSS 2019: Monitoring Trends in Mathematics and Science Achievement

Entering into its third decade and seventh cycle of data collection, TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) is a well established international assessment of mathematics and science at the fourth and eighth grades. TIMSS 2019 is the most recent in the TIMSS trend series, which began with the first assessments in 1995 and continued every four years—1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2019. About 60 countries use TIMSS trend data for monitoring the effectiveness of their educational systems in a global context, and new countries join TIMSS in each cycle. About 70 countries are expected to participate in TIMSS 2019.

As a mathematics and science assessment, TIMSS is a valuable resource for monitoring educational effectiveness because science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, often known as STEM, are key curriculum areas. It is clear that even today many jobs require a basic understanding of mathematics and science, and this will become increasingly so in the future. Workers in STEM occupations are responsible for finding solutions to world problems such as hunger and disappearing habitats as well as sustaining growth and stability in the global economy. Mathematics and science also are basic to daily life. Science is the natural world, including our weather, land and water, and sources of food and fuel. Mathematics helps us manage a host of daily tasks and is essential in developing the technology we depend on, such as computers, smartphones, and television.

Because mathematics and science pervade every aspect of our lives, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, more widely known as IEA, has been conducting international assessments of mathematics and science for nearly 60 years.

IEA is an independent international cooperative of national research institutions and government agencies that has been conducting studies of cross-national achievement since 1959. IEA pioneered international comparative assessment of educational achievement in the 1960s to gain a deeper understanding of policy effects across countries’ different systems of education. Today, IEA’s Amsterdam office manages country participation in a number of international studies, and IEA’s Hamburg division is a large data processing and research center. As a major program of IEA, TIMSS has the benefit of drawing on the cooperative expertise provided by representatives from countries all around the world.

TIMSS is directed by the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. TIMSS and PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study), an international assessment of reading, together comprise IEA’s core cycle of studies measuring achievement in three fundamental subjects—mathematics, science, and reading.