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Alignment between South African mathematics assessment standards and the TIMSS assessment frameworks

Ndlovu, Mdutshekelwa ; Mji, Andile (2012-12)

Please cite as follows:

Ndlovu, M., & Mji, A. 2012. Alignment between South African mathematics assessment standards and the TIMSS assessment frameworks. Pythagoras, 33(3):1-9, (Art. #182), doi:10.4102/pythagoras.v33i3.182.

The original publication is available at


South Africa’s performance in international benchmark tests is a major cause for concern amongst educators and policymakers, raising questions about the effectiveness of the curriculum reform efforts of the democratic era. The purpose of the study reported in this article was to investigate the degree of alignment between the TIMSS 2003 Grade 8 Mathematics assessment frameworks and the Revised National Curriculum Statements (RNCS) assessment standards for Grade 8 Mathematics, later revised to become the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS). Such an investigation could help to partly shed light on why South African learners do not perform well and point out discrepancies that need to be attended to. The methodology of document analysis was adopted for the study, with the RNCS and the TIMSS 2003 Grade 8 Mathematics frameworks forming the principal documents. Porter’s moderately complex index of alignment was adopted for its simplicity. The computed index of 0.751 for the alignment between the RNCS assessment standards and the TIMSS assessment objectives was found to be significantly statistically low, at the alpha level of 0.05, according to Fulmer’s critical values for 20 cells and 90 or 120 standard points. The study suggests that inadequate attention has been paid to the alignment of the South African mathematics curriculum to the successive TIMSS assessment frameworks in terms of the cognitive level descriptions. The study recommends that participation in TIMSS should rigorously and critically inform ongoing curriculum reform efforts.

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