by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
The results of the TIMSS (Trends In International Mathematics and Science Study) were released today. North Carolina was one of a handful of U.S. states to participate in TIMSS testing of fourth- and eighth-grade students in math and science.
At 11:00 am, my weekly newsletter was published. In it, I remarked,
The most important thing to remember is that we do not know why eighth-grade math and science [TIMSS] scores increased from 1999 to 2011 or, for that matter, why fourth- and eighth-grade scores were higher than most participating countries, states, and territories. Over the next few weeks, we’ll hear left-wing pundits attribute the scores to “investments” in pre-K, numerous state programs, and increases in teacher pay. There is no evidence that any government expenditure or initiative deserves the credit.
At 12:31, the NC Department of Public Instruction posted a press release about the TIMSS scores on their website. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said,
Our efforts in early childhood education, providing professional development for teachers, and setting higher expectations for students are paying off, as measured by TIMSS. The fact that our scores were comparable to scores from countries such as Singapore is a tribute to the work underway to remodel public education in this state.
The “comparable to Singapore” statement is a bit of a stretch. Aside from that exaggeration, note that Atkinson claims that their “efforts” were responsible for the state’s TIMSS performance. (More than a few classroom teachers may disagree.) There is no evidence that this was the case, unless Atkinson is privy to research that is not available to the public.
Anyway, why should DPI “remodel” education if our scores were comparable to Singapore? Why make changes to a system that supposedly works well?