Mirroring Trends: TIMSS, PISA Show Growing Performance Gaps

TIMSS 2019 saw a widening achievement gap in math

TIMSS 2019 saw a widening achievement gap in math

Despite the fact that US students had higher average scores than most participating jurisdictions on the 2019 administration of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) released last week, results showed widening score gaps between high- and low-performing students in mathematics at both 4th and 8th grade levels. These widening gaps were due to declines in performance of the lower performing students, and the gap in 8th grade math scores—seen in the chart above—was the widest of all but one jurisdiction. These inequitable results were mirrored in the results of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s 2018 PISA assessment where the gap in performance in mathematics also widened since the previous administration in 2015. And it is not just math: the gaps in performance on 8th grade science on TIMSS and on reading on PISA also widened in the latest results. These persistent, very significant gaps, seen across multiple subjects and different kinds of tests, were widening even before the coronavirus pandemic impacted schools across the country, which has likely exacerbated these long-standing inequities. See Marc Tucker’s recent blog urging the United States to adopt a national strategy to provide intensive learning supports to the students being left behind.