OVAE Connection - Issue 161 - August 1, 2013

OVAE Connection

                                                                      August 1, 2013 - Issue 161

Results From TIMSS: U.S. Performance in Mathematics is Above Average

This is the third column of a four-part series on the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy (PIRLS) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) results in the U.S. In the last issue of OVAE Connection the article focused on PIRLS. This week we focus on TIMSS, specifically U.S. mathematics performance.

At 541, the average mathematics score for U.S. fourth-graders was higher than the TIMMS scale average of 500. Students from eight systems had higher average scores than those for the U.S., while the average scores for students in six other systems were not measurably different from those for the U.S., which had higher scores than the remaining 42 participating systems (a total of 57 systems participated). The education systems with higher average mathematics scores were Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong-China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Northern Ireland, North Carolina (along with Florida, the only two states to obtain their own mathematics results), and Flemish Belgium.

U.S. fourth-graders’ average scores rose 12 points between 2007 and 2011. Twelve education systems increased their average scores between 2007 and 2011.

TIMSS uses four international benchmarks (Advanced, High, Intermediate, and Low) to describe the skills and knowledge of students at various levels of proficiency. Higher percentages of U.S. students performed both at a more advanced level and at a lower level than the median performance level for all participating systems. Thirteen percent of fourth-grade students in the U.S. reached the Advanced international benchmark, a mark exceeded by students in seven other education systems.

Florida and North Carolina participated in TIMSS at grade 4 in order to receive their own state results. Students in six systems achieved higher average scores than did Florida’s fourth-graders, who had an average score of 545. Florida’s average score was not measurably different from that of U.S. fourth-grade students as a whole, and was higher than the average of 43 other education systems. The average score for North Carolina’s students (554) was higher than the average score for students in 47 other education systems. Students from five other systems had higher average scores on the fourth-grade mathematics assessment than did North Carolina’s students.

In the eighth grade, the U.S. average mathematics score (509) was higher than the TIMSS scale average of 500. Students from 11 other education systems had higher averages, those from 12 other systems had equivalent averages, and those from 32 other systems had lower averages than that of U.S. students. The 11 education systems with average scores above the U.S. average were Korea, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong-China, Japan, Massachusetts, Minnesota, the Russian Federation, North Carolina, Quebec-Canada, and Indiana. The performance of U.S. eighth-graders in 2011 was not measurably different from in 2007.

Higher percentages of U.S. students performed both at a more advanced level and at a lower level than the median performance level for all participating systems. Seven percent of eighth grade students in the U.S. achieved the Advanced international benchmark standard, a rate exceeded by students in 11 other education systems.

Among the U.S. states with eighth-graders participating in TIMSS, the average mathematics scores of those in Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Indiana were above both the TIMSS scale average and the U.S. national average. Average scores for eighth-graders from Colorado, Connecticut, and Florida were above the TIMSS scale average but not measurably different from the U.S. national average, while the average score for California’s students in the eighth grade was not measurably different from the TIMSS scale average but was below the U.S. national average. The average score for Alabama’s students was below both the TIMSS scale average and the U.S. national average in mathematics.

The final article in this series will appear next week and will discuss TIMSS science results for the U.S.


Model Program for Long-Term Career Advancement of Low Income Adults

MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization, recently released WorkAdvance: Testing a New Approach to Increase Employment Advancement for Low-Skilled Adults. This policy brief details a new skills-building model designed to help low-income adults prepare for, enter, and succeed in obtaining quality jobs in high-demand fields with opportunities for career growth. It applies known strategies in sector-based employment programs and combines them with promising practices from career coaching once participants are placed into jobs.

Many low-income, low-skilled adults in the U.S. have difficulty obtaining family-sustaining jobs that also offer advancement in the job market. Those individuals with no more than a high school education are particularly vulnerable, often experiencing both unsteady employment and flat wages. According to the brief, “…many low-income individuals cannot afford [training programs], fail to complete training, or do not obtain a marketable credential.” Concurrently, employers assert that they are unable to readily secure people with the necessary occupational skills to meet their business needs. As a consequence, many key positions go unfilled, even during a weak economy.

In response, the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) and MDRC developed the WorkAdvance model and launched it as a research demonstration project in four locations—New York City, Tulsa, Okla., and Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio. Eligible participants are low-income adults, 18 years or older, who are unemployed or earning under $15 per hour, and whose family income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Each program will focus on occupations in one or two industry sectors and, given the different regions and industry sectors across the programs, each model will be implemented and tailored differently. All programs, however, will be informed by employers’ input and focused on long-term career advancement. Each site will also implement the model’s core elements: intensive applicant screening; sector-focused pre-employment services; sector-specific occupational skills training; sector-specific job development and placement; and, post-employment retention and advancement services.

The brief posits that “[The] variety of backgrounds provides an opportunity for MDRC to learn whether the WorkAdvance model can be effective when operated by different types of organizations — an important question to answer if the model is to be replicated on a larger scale. Evaluation of the program findings will assist in providing better evidence for policymakers and program administrators as they consider if and how to incorporate sector-focused and postemployment strategies into other workforce policies and programs, such as the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Pell Grant-funded training programs, or the SNAP Employment and Training program. The first full report, which will focus on the program implementation, will be published, in 2014. A final report of the findings on program impacts is scheduled for release in 2015.