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2007 TIMSS Results: Massachusetts and the Rest of the World

Mitchell D. Chester
Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education

Over the past several years we have been able to pride ourselves on outperforming the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and other national assessments. Today's results show that we rank alongside some of the highest performing nations in the world in math and science.

The results we are unveiling today are cause for celebration and a tribute to the dedicated work of the Commonwealth's teachers, administrators and students. They also help to underscore that the reforms of the past 15 years and the tremendous investment that has been made in public education in Massachusetts are paying off.

Since my arrival in May I have repeatedly made the point that the challenge in Massachusetts is not to fix a system that is broken, it is to make a good system even better. Today's results prove once again that moving from "good" to "great" is well within our grasp in the Commonwealth.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is administered every four years in grades four and eight, and is one of the most respected international benchmarking assessment in the world. In 2007, almost one-half million students from 59 countries, one other state (Minnesota), and sub-jurisdictions from Canada, Spain and the United Arab Emirates participated. Here in the Commonwealth, 3,600 students from 95 schools took part in the testing during the spring of 2007.

Results show that we rank at or near the top in every category: in fourth grade math we rank third, and were outscored only by Hong Kong SAR and Singapore; in fourth grade science we rank second, and were outscored only by Singapore. In eighth grade math we rank sixth, and were outscored by Chinese Taipei, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong SAR and Japan; and in eighth grade science we are tied for first in the WORLD, alongside Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Japan and the Republic of Korea. Compared to 1999, our eighth grade performance in both mathematics and science has improved substantially.

This is outstanding news that represents the hard work and dedication we are seeing across the Commonwealth, but it would be shortsighted to rest on our laurels. As we speak, nations around the globe are looking for ways to catapult the educational attainment of their young to build a foundation for their future. We cannot afford to stand still, or our students will be left behind.

We are combing these results to identify opportunities for improvement. For example, the performance of our boys outpaced that of our girls. In other nations this is not the case.] As we dig deeper into these results we will look especially hard at the proportion of students achieving at the highest two levels. More than 60 percent met this benchmark in the fourth grade, but almost half of our eighth graders reached this target. Other nations are achieving greater success against these targets. And with increasing numbers of the Commonwealth's eighth graders achieving at high levels, we need to ensure that our high schools provide strong mathematics and science programs that build on the success of the earlier grades.

The 2007 TIMSS results demonstrate that we are – and should be – the envy of the rest of the country and most of the world. But after we take a moment to congratulate our selves, we must resume the task at hand: To ensure that all students, regardless of gender, background, or zip code, attain the same level of success that many of our students currently are experiencing.

I am proud to be Commissioner of our public schools every day, but today I am especially proud. I am bolstered by these results, and have great confidence in our ability to build on what we have already achieved and bring our schools from good to great, if not even better.



Last Updated: December 9, 2008
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