Deborah Nelson

Document Type

Policy Brief

Date of this Version



The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)-1995 and its successor, TIMSS-1999, provide researchers, policymakers, and educators with an unprecedented opportunity to explore the possible relationships between educational policies and student achievement in an international context. Due to the amount and complexity of the TIMSS data, analyses have proceeded in phases, each providing a more detailed and sophisticated understanding of these relationships. This Brief is the third in the Consortium for Policy Research in Education’s (CPRE) series reporting on the policy implications of TIMSS data. It summarizes results of recently completed TIMSS research that explores in greater detail questions raised in initial analyses.

Earlier analyses of TIMSS data were based largely on observed differences between instructional variables in the United States and in high-achieving TIMSS nations. This was a kind of “benchmarking” approach in which certain practices were hypothesized to increase student achievement. Some of the research summarized in this Brief continues this earlier work by exploring additional differences between policy and practice in the United States and in other TIMSS nations. Other studies expand on this work by looking for instructional variables that might explain differences in student achievement across a broader range of TIMSS nations. Results do not yield simple lessons and may thus be frustrating for those who hoped that TIMSS might prescribe specific recommendations for policy and practice. Recent research does, however, continue to raise important questions about the relationships between policy, practice, and student achievement in an international context. The summary presented here highlights key issues that emerge from this work.



Date Posted: 29 June 2015