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TIMSS Report Highlights Importance of Effective Elementary Science Programs



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ARLINGTON, Va., June 10, 1997 -- Responding to the results of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) released today, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) indicates that the study confirms the need for and importance of an effective elementary science program to serve as the foundation for a sound K-12 education in science.

TIMSS, the most comprehensive international study in science and math, reports that U.S. fourth graders perform significantly above the international average in science among the 26 TIMSS countries. U.S. fourth graders are outperformed by students in only one country -- Korea. There is no significant difference in science performance between U.S. and Japanese students. In the four science content areas, U.S. fourth graders' performance also exceeds the international average.

Sixty-three percent of U.S. fourth graders scored above the international average in science, and 16 percent fall within the top 10 percent of all the students from the TIMSS countries.

"Elementary school students are extremely curious about the world around them and thus by nature very interested in science," said Dr. Fred Johnson, president of NSTA. "We have always known how crucial the elementary science experience is for all students, and NSTA has worked to sustain strong science programs at this level."

For many years, NSTA has recommended that "science be a basic in the daily curriculum of every elementary school child at every grade level." Early experiences in science help children develop problem-solving skills and motivate them toward a lifelong interest in the natural world.

In a previous TIMSS report released last November, U.S. eighth-grade students also performed above average in science. However, the recent results indicate that the international standing of U.S. fourth graders in science is stronger than that of U.S. eighth graders.

"Although no single factor at this time can be attributed to the higher scores of fourth graders, we must find ways to sustain strong performance -- and student interest -- in science as children grow," said Dr. Gerald Wheeler, NSTA executive director. "We know that by the time students enter seventh grade, more than half say they are not interested in science. Our challenge is to teach science in a way that students can't lose interest."

TIMSS is the first international study to integrate information on curriculum, teaching, and student achievement. TIMSS seeks to identify variables associated with high levels of student achievement and characteristics that influence educational performance. Achievement scores for 12th grade are expected to be released in spring 1998.

Founded in 1944, the National Science Teachers Association is the world's largest organization dedicated to promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. Its 53,000-plus members include science teachers of all grade levels, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and others involved in science education.

CONTACT: Cindy Workosky of the National Science Teachers Association, 703-312-9248

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