ERIC Identifier: ED328604
Publication Date: 1990-12-00
Author: Loxley, Bill
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Tests Measurement and Evaluation
Washington DC., American Institutes for Research Washington DC.
The International Association for the Evaluation of
Educational Achievement. ERIC Digest.
"U.S. Students Continue to Lag Behind Japanese and Europeans in Math
When you read a newspaper headline like this one, chances are that the
findings are based on data from studies conducted by the International
Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).
This digest takes a look at IEA--how it is organized and how international
studies are undertaken. Some current IEA projects are also described.
WHAT IS IEA?
Formed 31 years ago, IEA is a non-profit, private association which
carries out international comparative studies on schools. Policy makers
and educators use data from IEA studies to
o assess the impact of alternative curricular offerings,
o monitor the quality of schooling worldwide,
o identify effective schools and learn how to improve their own educational
o better understand the instructional learning process.
IEA aids the research community in developing international test instruments
and statistical techniques. IEA data are available to researchers around
By viewing the world as a giant laboratory, IEA tries to encourage international
dialogue focusing on policy matters and technical evaluation procedures.
The resulting debate blends issue-oriented conceptual frameworks with unique
HOW IS IEA ORGANIZED?
IEA's organizational structure consists of the following:
o a chairperson, who is elected by the membership every three years;
o a general assembly, which meets once a year to formally approve an
agenda and debate procedural and technical issues that concern IEA's goals
and professional development;
o a six-member standing committee (two members are elected yearly on
a rotating basis), which meets twice yearly with the chairperson and executive
director to implement the decisions of the General Assembly;
o a secretariat, located in The Hague, which carries out IEA's day-to-day
Each time an international study is undertaken, IEA appoints an International
Coordinating Center (ICC) and steering committee to manage the instrument
development, piloting, data collection, and analysis tasks. National centers
for each participating country are designated and their representatives
meet periodically at the invitation of the ICC to plan timetables; data
handling procedures; and staff training in sampling, item construction
and analysis, and report writing.
IEA currently has 39 member countries. New members are accepted into
IEA based on a two-thirds majority vote of assembly members.
Full-voting membership is open to national institutions with ties to
both the research community and funding agencies--usually a Ministry of
Education, public or private university, or national research institute.
Typically, a full-voting member represents an entire nation, although it
is possible for an institution to represent an educational system of a
province or state within a nation. Non-voting institutional observer memberships
are available for a fee.
WHAT KINDS OF STUDIES DOES IEA UNDERTAKE?
Every decade or so, IEA undertakes a core of school studies in math,
science, reading literacy, composition, and foreign language. A typical
study involves 20 countries and includes testing national samples in a
given subject, accompanied by individual student, teacher, and school questionnaires.
The surveyed students are usually 9 or 10, 13 or 14, and 17 or 18 years
Aside from a 35 country reading literacy study operating from Hamburg,
Germany, IEA is now preparing for its third international mathematics and
science study. This study, which begins field research in 1993, will involve
over 25 countries.
The scope of IEA research includes thousands of randomly sampled students
by grade level in hundreds of schools and at least two classrooms per grade
within a school. When all questionnaire data are merged into one file,
it is possible to evaluate the impact of school and teacher resources on
student achievement after controlling for varying student characteristics.
Besides measures of school and teacher resources and process variables
that measure how well teachers teach, IEA uses opportunity-to-learn measures
that indicate whether students have been given the chance to study a certain
topic. Indicators of the opportunity to learn for a country measure the
qualities of a curriculum while achievement scores measure the actual results.
In addition, IEA offers longitudinal components and in-depth case studies
on specific sub-samples (for example, classroom processes, performance
testing) as possible options that nations can choose when they select the
grade levels they want to study.
WHAT SPECIAL STUDIES DOES IEA UNDERTAKE?
Aside from the four recurring studies, other smaller international studies
are undertaken periodically as needs arise. Current examples include:
o a 21-country, computer education study that looks at how computer
technology is changing school instruction. The participating countries
are Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Finland, France, Federal Republic
of Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Italy,
Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, Switzerland, and U.S.A.
o a 13-country study that examines pre-primary early child care and
education services to learn what is happening to young children worldwide
before they enter the formal school setting. The participating countries
are Belgium, China, Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, Hong Kong, Hungary,
Italy, Kenya, Nigeria, Philippines, Portugal, Thailand, and U.S.A.
WHAT ELSE DOES IEA DO?
In addition to publishing international comparisons for each completed
study, IEA provides bulletins on topics raised during IEA research, a semi-annual
newsletter, and a guidebook containing information about the IEA international
research network found among member countries.
Periodically, IEA sponsors conferences on issue-related topics and the
organization carries out secondary analysis on its own data sets comparing
trends over studies and more generally mapping school outcomes worldwide.
For more information about IEA, write to:
Bill Loxley, IEA Executive Director,
SVO, Sweelinckplein 14,
2517 GK The Hague, The Netherlands.
FAX: (31-070) 360 9951
Burnstein, L., ed. (forthcoming). The Second International Mathematics
Study: Volume III; Oxford, England: Pergamon Press.
Gorman, T. et al. eds. 1988. The IEA Study of Written Composition I.
Oxford, England: Pergamon Press.
Postlethwaite, N.; Wiley, D. eds. (forthcoming). The Second International
Science Study: Volume II. Oxford, England: Pergamon Press.
Robitaille, D.; Garden, R. 1989. The IEA Study of Mathematics II. Oxford,
England: Pergamon Press.