PISA results can lead policymakers astray

The Economist: When Estonia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 it took the chance to reshape the country’s education system. Mailis Reps, the current education minister, says officials and politicians looked everywhere—from America to the Netherlands—for inspiration. But they kept coming back to their Nordic neighbours. As Ms Reps recalls, the concluding argument … Continue reading PISA results can lead policymakers astray

A new perspective on memorization practices among East Asian students based on PISA 2012

Yi-Jhen Wu, Claus H. Carstensen & Jihyun Lee: This study examined learning strategy use in mathematics among East Asian students in East Asian educational systems. By employing latent class analysis on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012 data, we found four classes of learning strategy types, namely memorization with metacognitive strategies (17.49%), metacognitive … Continue reading A new perspective on memorization practices among East Asian students based on PISA 2012

PISA Is a Unique Resource for Testing Educational Attainment of 15-Year-Olds in 78 Countries. Adding 40 More Would Be a Mistake

Mark Schneider: In a recent commentary in Ed Week, I discussed two emerging problems in PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment, administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). I identified OECD’s insufficient attention to research and development (driven in part by its pursuit of “innovative” topics) and the too-short three-year testing … Continue reading PISA Is a Unique Resource for Testing Educational Attainment of 15-Year-Olds in 78 Countries. Adding 40 More Would Be a Mistake

What the world can learn from the latest PISA test results

The Economist: But Estonia has also taken a deliberately inclusive approach, argues Mart Laidmets, a senior official at its ministry of education. It tries to avoid at all costs having pupils repeat years of school. Holding pupils back can help. But too often it is used as an excuse not to teach difficult kids. It … Continue reading What the world can learn from the latest PISA test results

Pisa tests to include ‘global skills’ and cultural awareness

Andreas Schleicher: Pisa tests, an international standard for comparing education systems around the world, could include a new measurement of global skills in the next round of tests in 2018. The OECD, which runs the tests in maths, reading and science, is considering adding another test which would look at how well pupils can navigate … Continue reading Pisa tests to include ‘global skills’ and cultural awareness

England will not take part in OECD’s ‘Pisa for universities’

John Morgan: England will not take part in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s project to measure learning outcomes of graduates around the world, delivering a blow to the plan. The OECD had described the Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes project, seen as a potential university-level equivalent of the organisation’s Pisa tests in … Continue reading England will not take part in OECD’s ‘Pisa for universities’

Pisa tests to include many more Chinese pupils

Sean Coughlan: There will be a much wider sample of Chinese pupils taking part in the next round of the international Pisa tests. Shanghai took part in the most recent tests and had the highest results. But there were claims that the city was not representative of schools in other parts of China. The Organisation … Continue reading Pisa tests to include many more Chinese pupils

Wealth and PISA scores: why doesn’t money help U.S. performance more?

Peter Goodman::

Like children headed home with their report cards, the nations of the globe recently received grades on the educational achievement of their students via the test known as the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA. Reactions ranged from celebration to resignation to recrimination, depending upon the results.
In the United States, France and Great Britain, educators and political leaders bemoaned another disappointing showing despite their enviable wealth. They looked to East Asia and Eastern Europe and sought to understand how poorer countries in these regions could achieve so much more with fewer resources.
In Germany, educators took a measure of satisfaction that they had arrested an alarming decline, though they were far from declaring victory. In Poland, where leaders congratulated themselves for a breakout performance, the impressive results reinforced a controversial set of reforms.
The unleashing of the latest PISA scores occasioned a familiar debate over the merits of reducing the quality of schooling to a data point. Even the man who coordinates PISA, Andreas Schleicher, cautions that the numbers can be taken too far.
“Any assessment is a partial reflection of what matters,” he told The WorldPost. “Math, science and literacy are the foundation for most of the other things, but they’re not everything.”

Tyler Cowen has more:

The data was provided to The WorldPost by Pablo Zoido, an analyst at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the group behind PISA. It shows that students’ wealth does not necessarily make them more competitive on an international scale. In the United States, for example, the poorest kids scored around a 433 out of 700 on the math portion of PISA, while the wealthiest ones netted about a 547. The lower score comes in just below the OECD average for the bottom decile (436), but the higher score also comes in below the OECD average for the top decile (554).
“At the top of the distribution, our performance is surprisingly bad given our top decile is among the wealthiest in the world,” said Morgan Polikoff, a professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Education who reviewed the data.

Deconstructing PISA: Implications for Education Reform and Fighting Poverty

Elaine Weiss and Dr. Thomas W. Payzant:

Every three years, American policymakers eagerly anticipate the release of scores for the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). While any single test, no matter how strong, can explain only a limited amount about our education system, PISA provides some unique insights, testing students’ ability to apply knowledge and skills both in and out of school. It is taken only by 15-year-olds, making it a decent proxy for the “college-and-career readiness” that is the focus of current debates.
The 2013 headline is basically that the United States falls right in the middle of the pack, as it has for several decades. The U.S. Department of Education and its allies used those rankings to argue that U.S. schools are “stagnating” and to advance specific reforms it says will fix them. However, average scores may obscure and confuse more than they inform. Indeed, scores from individual states that have their own PISA rankings offer more policy-relevant insight than overall U.S. rankings. This makes sense — U.S. education looks more like a diverse patchwork than a unified system. Public investments in schools, and in students and their families, vary greatly across states, as do other policies that may boost or depress scores. Luckily, this year, three states received individual PISA rankings — as if they were independent countries. This can help us connect the dots between those disparities and scores.
Massachusetts is the good news story. If it were its own country, it would rank sixth in reading of 65 countries and economies included, behind only Singapore, Japan, Korea, and the Chinese regions of Shanghai and Hong Kong. Its students rank just above Finland and Canada, some of the world’s best readers. Though its math scores are slightly lower, Massachusetts keeps company with Belgium and Germany and is only slightly behind Finland and Canada, ranking 16 of 65. In science, Massachusetts ranks 11th, ahead of Canada and Germany. Connecticut, the second of three states with its own scores, falls just below Massachusetts, ranking 9th in reading, 18th in math, and 17th in science.

PISA’s China Problem Continues: A Response to Schleicher, Zhang, and Tucker

Tom Lovelace:

In October 2013, I posted an essay, “PISA’s China Problem,” that called on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to fully disclose its arrangement with China regarding Shanghai’s participation in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). The latest PISA scores were to be released in December, offering an excellent opportunity for the OECD to dispel the mystery surrounding Shanghai’s 2009 involvement with PISA. I noted that Shanghai, the wealthiest, most educated province in China, was the only mainland province officially participating in PISA 2009 and PISA 2012. Other data from rural areas of China had been talked about by PISA officials over the years, but never released to the public domain. I called on PISA to release those data.
When the latest PISA scores came out in December, nothing had changed. I followed up with a second essay. I again urged full transparency. I also challenged PISA’s portrayal of Shanghai as a “high equity” school system. An extensive literature–including excellent journalism and both qualitative and quantitative scholarship–documents the cruel effects of the hukou system on migrants in Shanghai. Hukou is an internal registration system in China that limits rural migrants’ access to urban public services, in particular, to schools. These migrants are Chinese citizens, mind you, not immigrants from other countries. They have simply moved from rural areas to China’s big cities, or, because the hukou is inherited, they were born in one of China’s big cities but because of their family’s rural hukou, have become second generation migrants in the eyes of the state.

PISA 2012: What Makes a School “Successful”

OECD Publishing:

Students in 2012 were more likely than their counterparts in 2003 to have attended at least one year of pre-primary education.
While more 15-old students reported to have enrolled in pre-primary education during the period, many of the students who reported that they had not attended pre-primary school are disadvantaged – the students who could benefit most from pre-primary education.
If offered a choice of schools for their child, parents are more likely to consider such criteria as “a safe school environment” and “a school’s good reputation” more important than “high academic achievement of students in the school”.

China is Cheating the World Student Rankings System Read more: World Student Rankings: China Is Cheating the PISA System

David Stout:

The results from a global exam that evaluates students’ reading, science and math skills are in and, once again, Chinese students appear to be reigning supreme while American students continued to underperform.
But before you shake your head ruefully and scoff at the decline of Western-style education, take a look at how the data is organized.
The OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams are held every three years. Coming first and third respectively in the 2012 exams are the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Hong Kong.
However, China is uniquely not listed as a country in the rankings — unlike the U.S., Russia, Germany, Australia and other nations judged on the basis of their country-wide performances. Instead, China only shares Shanghai’s score with PISA. (Hong Kong, a Special Autonomous Region of China, sends its own data.)

PISA 2012 Results & Commentary: “US Mediocre, Expensive”

:

PISA 2012 is the programme’s 5th survey. It assessed the competencies of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science (with a focus on mathematics) in 65 countries and economies.
Around 510 000 students between the ages of 15 years 3 months and 16 years 2 months participated in the assessment, representing about 28 million 15-year-olds globally.
The students took a paper-based test that lasted 2 hours. The tests were a mixture of open-ended and multiple-choice questions that were organised in groups based on a passage setting out a real-life situation. A total of about 390 minutes of test items were covered. Students took different combinations of different tests. They and their school principals also answered questionnaires to provide information about the students’ backgrounds, schools and learning experiences and about the broader school system and learning environment.

Laura Waters:

Among the 34 OECD countries, the United States performed below average in mathematics in 2012 and is ranked 26th…Performance in reading and science are both close to the OECD average. The United States ranks 17 in reading, (range of ranks: 14 to 20) and 21 in science (range of ranks: 17 to 25). There has been no significant change in these performances over time.
Mathematics scores for the top-performer, Shanghai-China, indicate a performance that is the equivalent of over two years of formal schooling ahead of those observed in Massachusetts, itself a strong-performing U.S. state.
While the U.S. spends more per student than most countries, this does not translate into better performance. For example, the Slovak Republic, which spends around USD 53 000 per student, performs at the same level as the United States, which spends over USD 115 000 per student.
Just over one in four U.S. students do not reach the PISA baseline Level 2 of mathematics proficiency – a higher-than-OECD average proportion and one that hasn’t changed since 2003. At the opposite end of the proficiency scale, the U.S. has a below-average share of top performers.
Students in the United States have particular weaknesses in performing mathematics tasks with higher cognitive demands, such as taking real-world situations, translating them into mathematical terms, and interpreting mathematical aspects in real-world problems. An alignment study between the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and PISA suggests that a successful implementation of the Common Core Standards would yield significant performance gains also in PISA.

Dana Goldstein::

While these results always make news, this year there is an added tempest in the teapot of the education policy world: The OECD and the Obama administration worked in advance with a selected group of advocacy organizations to launch a media campaign called PISA Day. Which organizations? The College Board, ACT, America Achieves, and the Business Roundtable–all key architects of the Common Core, the new national curriculum standards whose increased rigor and standardized tests have led to a much-publicized protest movement among some parents, teachers, and kids. Groups that support the Core have an interest in calling attention to low American test scores, which today they will use to argue that the Core is the solution not only to our academic woes, but also to reviving the American economy. Happy PISA Day!
But the truth is that the lessons of PISA for our school reform movement are not as simple as they are often made out to be. PISA results aren’t just about K-12 test scores and curricula–they are also about academic ability tracking, income inequality, health care, child care, and how schools are organized as workplaces for adults.

Julia Ryan:

Not much has changed since 2000, when the U.S. scored along the OECD average in every subject: This year, the U.S. scores below average in math and ranks 17th among the 34 OECD countries. It scores close to the OECD average in science and reading and ranks 21st in science and 17th in reading.
Here are some other takeaways from the report:
America Is Struggling at Math
The U.S. scored below the PISA math mean and ranks 26th out of the 34 OECD countries. The U.S. math score is not statistically different than the following countries: Norway, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Lithuania, Sweden, and Hungary.
Do American Schools Need to Change? Depends What You Compare Them To
On average, 13 percent of students scored at the highest or second highest level on the PISA test, making them “top performers.” Fifty-five percent of students in Shanghai-China were considered top performers, while only nine percent of American students were.

Stephanie Banchero:

For the last few years, many U.S. educators and policy makers have looked to Finland, noting its high test scores and laser-like focus on attracting and retaining the best teachers. Although Finland still posts high scores, they have slid in the past few years.
Poland, on the other hand, has seen sharp improvement. The only European country to have avoided the recession, Poland undertook a host of education overhauls in 1999, including delaying by one year the system that places students into academic or vocational tracks, and crafting better systems to identify struggling students and get them help.
“Poland launched a massive set of reforms and, while we cannot say for sure they caused the improvement, they certainly are…a sort of plausible explanation,” said Andreas Schleicher, deputy director for education and skills at the OECD.
In Massachusetts, educators and policy makers credit the good showing, in part, to a 1993 effort that boosted spending and ushered in rigorous standards and achievement tests that students have to pass to graduate.

Related: www.wisconsin2.org

(2013 version) Why does Finnish give better PISA results?

Taksin Nuoret: Ever since December 2001, when the results of the first PISA survey were made public, the Finnish educational system has received a lot of international attention. Foreign delegations are flocking to Finland, in the hope of discovering Finland’s secrets. Finland is also trying to take advantage of its PISA success by exporting its … Continue reading (2013 version) Why does Finnish give better PISA results?

PISA based Wealth Comparison

Die Zeit:

How do families live these days? OECD’s comprehensive world education ranking report, PISA 2009, was published in December of 2010. All participants of the test (fifteen-year-old pupils) completed a questionnaire about their living situation at home. ZEIT ONLINE analyzed and visualized this data to provide you with a unique way of comparing standards of living in different countries. Click on any icon to see further details.

American kids “in the middle” on PISA science? How big is that middle again?

Daniel Willingham:

My Facebook feed today has lots of links to this article. The upshot: a new Pew study showing that Americans think that US 15 year olds rank “near the bottom” on international science tests, whereas the truth is that they “rank in the middle among developed countries.”
I guess “the middle” covers a lot of terrain, but the way I look at the data, this assertion doesn’t hold.
The international comparison in question is the 2009 PISA. Here are the rankings. (Click for larger image)

Related: www.wisconsin2.org.

Numbers Can Lie: What TIMSS and PISA Truly Tell Us, if Anything?

Yong Zhao:

“America’s Woeful Public Schools: TIMSS Sheds Light on the Need for Systemic Reform”[1]
“Competitors Still Beat U.S. in Tests”[2]
“U.S. students continue to trail Asian students in math, reading, science”[3]
These are a few of the thousands of headlines generated by the release of the 2011 TIMSS and PIRLS results today. Although the results are hardly surprising or news worthy, judging from the headlines, we can expect another global wave of handwringing, soul searching, and calls for reform. But before we do, we should ask how meaningful these scores and rankings are.
“Numbers don’t lie,” many may say but what truth do they tell? Look at the following numbers:

Valerie Strauss has more.

PISA based Wealth Comparison

Zeit Online, via a kind Richard Askey email:

How do families live these days? OECD’s comprehensive world education ranking report, PISA 2009, was published in December of 2010. All participants of the test (fifteen-year-old pupils) completed a questionnaire about their living situation at home. ZEIT ONLINE analyzed and visualized this data to provide you with a unique way of comparing standards of living in different countries. Click on any icon to see further details.

Why is India so low in the Pisa rankings?

Tyler Cowen:

That is a request from J. and here is one recent story, with much more at the link:

A global study of learning standards in 74 countries has ranked India all but at the bottom, sounding a wake-up call for the country’s education system. China came out on top.

On this question, you can read a short Steve Sailer post, with comments attached. Here are my (contrasting) observations:
1. A big chunk of India is still at the margin where malnutrition and malaria and other negatives matter for IQ. Indian poverty is the most brutal I have seen, anywhere, including my two trips to sub-Saharan Africa or in my five trips to Haiti. I don’t know if Pisa is testing those particular individuals, but it still doesn’t bode well for the broader distribution, if only through parental effects.

Using PISA to Internationally Benchmark State Performance Standards

Gary W. Phillips & Tao Jiang via a Dan McGrath email:

This study describes how the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) was used for internationally benchmarking state performance standards. The process is accomplished in two steps. First, PISA items are embedded in the administration of the state assessment and calibrated on the state scale. The international item calibrations are then used to link the state scale to the PISA scale through common item linking. The second step is to use the statistical linking as part of the state standard setting process to help standard setting panelists determine how high their state standards need to be in order to be internationally competitive. This process was carried out in Delaware, Hawaii, and Oregon, and results are reported here for two of the states: Hawaii and Delaware.
Key words: Equating, linking, item response theory, international benchmarking.
Introduction
In 2010, the American Institutes for Research obtained permission from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to use secure items from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for purposes of linking state assessments within the United States to the PISA scale. The OECD provided a representative sample of 30 secure PISA items in Reading, Mathematics, and Science. The PISA items covered the 2006 and 2009 PISA assessment cycles. In addition to the PISA items, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), which is the current vender for the OECD contracted to conduct PISA, provided the international item parameters and their standard errors, as well as the linear transformations needed to link the state assessments to the PISA scale. The administration, security, and scoring of the PISA items were carried out by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) based on a License Agreement between AIR and the OECD and monitored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Review Wisconsin’s position vs Minnesota, Massachusetts and Singapore, here.

Shanghai PISA scores

Steve Hsu:

The Shanghai math (+1 SD) and science (+.75 SD) scores are almost a full SD above the OECD average of 500 (SD = 100). The top 10 percent of Shanghai math students are all above the 99th percentile for the US. See earlier post for links to Rindermann’s work relating school achievement tests like TIMSS and PISA to national IQ estimates, and see here for earlier SD estimates using 2006 PISA data. (Finland has an anomalously low SD in the earlier data. A quick look at the 2009 data shows the following math SDs: Finland 82, USA 91, Korea 89, Japan 94, Germany 98, Shanghai 103, Singapore 104.)

Although Shanghai and Beijing are the richest cities in China, incomes are still quite low compared to the US. Average income in Shanghai is about $10k USD per annum, even PPP adjusted this is about $20k. People live very modestly by the standards of developed countries.

As noted in the comments, there are other places in China that score *higher* than Shanghai on college entrance exams or in math and science competitions. So while Shanghai is probably above the average in China, it isn’t as exceptional as is perhaps implied in the Times article.

Taiwan has been moving to an American-style, less test-centric, educational system in the last decade. Educators and government officials (according to local media reports in the last 12 hours) are very concerned about the “low scores” achieved in the most recent PISA 🙂

To see how individual states or ethnicities in the US score on PISA, see here and here.

NYTimes: … PISA scores are on a scale, with 500 as the average. Two-thirds of students in participating countries score between 400 and 600. On the math test last year, students in Shanghai scored 600, in Singapore 562, in Germany 513, and in the United States 487.

In reading, Shanghai students scored 556, ahead of second-place Korea with 539. The United States scored 500 and came in 17th, putting it on par with students in the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and several other countries.

In science, Shanghai students scored 575. In second place was Finland, where the average score was 554. The United States scored 502 — in 23rd place — with a performance indistinguishable from Poland, Ireland, Norway, France and several other countries.

The testing in Shanghai was carried out by an international contractor, working with Chinese authorities, and overseen by the Australian Council for Educational Research, a nonprofit testing group, said Andreas Schleicher, who directs the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s international educational testing program.

Mark Schneider, a commissioner of the Department of Education’s research arm in the George W. Bush administration, who returned from an educational research visit to China on Friday, said he had been skeptical about some PISA results in the past. But Mr. Schneider said he considered the accuracy of these results to be unassailable.

PISA & Hong Kong Schools

Mima Lau:

Pisa tests 15-year-old students in reading, maths and science. More than 400,000 students from 57 countries and regions took part in 2006 when Hong Kong students came second in science and third in maths and reading. This year, 72 countries and regions will participate. The test takes place from next month until May.
On Monday, the HKCISA appealed to schools to take part after not enough signed up for the test, saying they were too busy dealing with education reforms. The bureau brushed aside the centre’s concern the next day, calling it a “false alarm” and saying there was “no question of Hong Kong not participating”.
But Professor Ho said the message was wrong. The government failed to “understand the actual situation” and sent out “a wrong message” to the public by misjudging the sampling requirement.
“It was very irresponsible to make such a comment,” she said.
Professor Ho also expressed a concern that schools might be pressured by the administration to take part in the test.
“If Hong Kong is lacking students and falls out of Pisa’s international rankings, the government will have to take up the responsibility,” Professor Ho warned.
She said she had been working on Pisa for 10 years and did not want to see the hard work jeopardised. This year’s test was particularly significant because it was the first time Macau, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore would be compared internationally at the same time.

2006 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)

Education Week U.S. Students Fall Short in Math and Science Teenagers in a majority of industrialized nations taking part in a leading international exam showed greater scientific understanding than students in the United States—and they far surpassed their American peers in mathematics, in results that seem likely to add to recent consternation over U.S. students’ … Continue reading 2006 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)

This is why we don’t have better readers: Response to Lucy Calkins

Mark Seidenberg: Lucy Calkins has written a manifesto entitled “No One Gets To Own The Term ‘Science Of Reading’”. I am a scientist who studies reading.  Her document is not about the science that I know; it is about Lucy Calkins. Ms. Calkins is a prolific pedagogical entrepreneur who has published numerous curricula and supporting … Continue reading This is why we don’t have better readers: Response to Lucy Calkins

Only 9% of 15-year-olds can tell the difference between fact and opinion

Jenny Anderson: In the US, 13.5% of 15-year-olds can distinguish between fact and opinion when trying to interpret a complex reading task. In the UK, it’s just 11.5%. In the US, 13.5% of 15-year-olds can distinguish between fact and opinion when trying to interpret a complex reading task. In the UK, it’s just 11.5%. Those … Continue reading Only 9% of 15-year-olds can tell the difference between fact and opinion

‘It Just Isn’t Working’: Test Scores Cast Doubt on U.S. Education Efforts

Dana Goldstein: The performance of American teenagers in reading and math has been stagnant since 2000, according to the latest results of a rigorous international exam, despite a decades-long effort to raise standards and help students compete with peers across the globe.  And the achievement gap in reading between high and low performers is widening. … Continue reading ‘It Just Isn’t Working’: Test Scores Cast Doubt on U.S. Education Efforts

In decision certain to draw fire, journal will publish heavily criticized paper on gender differences in physics

Dalmeet Singh Chawla: In a move likely to attract criticism, a peer-reviewed journal has agreed to publish an Italian physicist’s highly contested analysis of publications, which concludes that female physicists don’t face more career obstacles than their male colleagues. The journal says it will also simultaneously publish critiques of the paper, which one member of … Continue reading In decision certain to draw fire, journal will publish heavily criticized paper on gender differences in physics

Girls’ comparative advantage in reading can largely explain the gender gap in math-related fields

Thomas Breda and Clotilde Napp : Women remain strongly underrepresented in math-related fields. This phenomenon is problematic because it contributes to gender inequalities in the labor market and can reflect a loss of talent. The current state of the art is that students’ abilities are not able to explain gender differences in educational and career … Continue reading Girls’ comparative advantage in reading can largely explain the gender gap in math-related fields

Andrés Manuel López Obrador seeks to expel merit from Mexico’s schools

The Economist: The reforms had little time to work. Just 171,000 teachers—less than 10% of the total—were hired on merit. A further 36,000 head teachers and supervisors were promoted on ability rather than loyalty to union bosses. But even this may leave a mark. A study published this year by the Development Bank of Latin … Continue reading Andrés Manuel López Obrador seeks to expel merit from Mexico’s schools

To unlock student potential in East Asia Pacific, be demanding and supportive of teachers

Michael Crawford: Among the 29 countries and economies of the East Asia and Pacific region, one finds some of the world’s most successful education systems. Seven out of the top 10 highest average scorers on internationally comparable tests such as PISA and TIMSS are from the region, with Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Hong … Continue reading To unlock student potential in East Asia Pacific, be demanding and supportive of teachers

Media Literacy Index 2018: Common sense wanted (reading would seem to be required

osi.bg: The Northwestern European countries have the highest potential for resilience to the impact of fake news due to the quality of education, free media and high trust among people. At the other extreme are the Balkan countries, which would be more vulnerable to the negative influence of fake news and the “post-truth” phenomenon mainly … Continue reading Media Literacy Index 2018: Common sense wanted (reading would seem to be required

How to improve student educational outcomes

Mckinsey: To understand what matters in student achievement, we applied analytics to data from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), administered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). These reports take on a few of the most active debates: Do mindsets matter? If so, to what extent? What teaching practices work best? … Continue reading How to improve student educational outcomes

Common Core is dead at U.S. Department of Education

Betsy DeVos: To a casual observer, a classroom today looks scarcely different than what one looked like when I entered the public policy debate thirty years ago…The vast majority of learning environments have remained the same since the industrial revolution, because they were made in its image. Think of your own experience: sit down; don’t … Continue reading Common Core is dead at U.S. Department of Education

U.S. ranks No. 13 in new collaborative problem-solving test

Jill Barshay: The United States may be known for its rugged individualism. But it turns out American teens are, surprisingly, much better at group collaboration than at individual academic work. That’s according to a new, unusual version of the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which tested collaborative problem-solving skills among 15-year-olds in more … Continue reading U.S. ranks No. 13 in new collaborative problem-solving test

Sarabeth Berman reviews Little Soldiers by Lenora Chu

Sarabeth Berman: The village had such a large, congested school because, in surrounding villages, the schools had been closed. For two decades, the number of children in the countryside had been dropping because of the one-child policy and urban migration, so the government had shuttered empty schools and created overstuffed campuses like the one at … Continue reading Sarabeth Berman reviews Little Soldiers by Lenora Chu

The big lesson from the world’s best school system? Trust your teachers

John Hart: Finnish education is rarely out of the news, whether it’s outstanding Pisa results, those same results slipping, the dropping of traditional subjects, not dropping subjects, or what makes Finnish teachers special. I worked in England for two years as a teacher before moving to Finland eight years ago. My colleagues in the UK … Continue reading The big lesson from the world’s best school system? Trust your teachers

Global competency for an inclusive world

OECD: The framework illustrated in this document represents a new, ambitious and still experimental approach to global competence which the OECD has developed in consultation with the international community of experts and which could provide a starting point for the PISA 2018 assessment. In particular, its emphasis on attitudes and values is novel in comparative … Continue reading Global competency for an inclusive world

Why are schools in China looking west for lessons in creativity?

Imogen West-Knights In the auditorium of Beijing Bayi School, on a cold morning thick with smog, props are broken, lines unlearnt and the mechanical curtain has blown a fuse. In four hours, my cast of 22 Chinese 14-year-olds, who have never acted before, will perform Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to an audience of 1,500 … Continue reading Why are schools in China looking west for lessons in creativity?

Why One Houston High School Stands Out In Global Test Results

Laura Isensee In the latest round of global test results, the United States remained in the middle of the pack. But one Houston school stood out and highlighted how the United States did the best out of all developed countries to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged kids and their more affluent peers. The test … Continue reading Why One Houston High School Stands Out In Global Test Results

What America Can Learn About Smart Schools in Other Countries

Amanda Ripley Here’s what the models show: Generally speaking, the smartest countries tend to be those that have acted to make teaching more prestigious and selective; directed more resources to their neediest children; enrolled most children in high-quality preschools; helped schools establish cultures of constant improvement; and applied rigorous, consistent standards across all classrooms. Of … Continue reading What America Can Learn About Smart Schools in Other Countries

“There is no way you can blame socioeconomic status for the performance of the United States”

Eduardo Porter: “There is no way you can blame socioeconomic status for the performance of the United States,” said Andreas Schleicher, the O.E.C.D.’s top educational expert, who runs the organization’s PISA tests. “When you look at all dimensions of social background, the United States does not suffer a particular disadvantage.” Mr. Schleicher criticized the analysis … Continue reading “There is no way you can blame socioeconomic status for the performance of the United States”

French education High flyers and sad failures

The Economist: Each year 122,000 pupils—17% of the total—leave school with no high-school diploma. Last year the French army evaluated national levels of reading and comprehension during a compulsory day of military and civic service for 17-year-olds. It found that one in ten attendees could not understand basic French. Such difficulties are concentrated in the … Continue reading French education High flyers and sad failures

A group of teachers went to China and realized that the West is instructing students wrong

Kevin Donnelly: Seventy teachers from the UK were sent to Shanghai to study classroom methods to investigate why Chinese students perform so well. Upon their return, the teachers reported that much of China’s success came from teaching methods the UK has been moving away from for the past 40 years. The Chinese favour a “chalk … Continue reading A group of teachers went to China and realized that the West is instructing students wrong

Goodbye, math and history: Finland wants to abandon teaching subjects at school

Kabir Chibber: Finland already has one of the best school education systems. It always ranks near the top in mathematics, reading, and science in the prestigious PISA rankings (the 2012 list, pdf) by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Teachers in other countries flock to its schools to learn from a country that is … Continue reading Goodbye, math and history: Finland wants to abandon teaching subjects at school

Higher Academic Achievement May Require Higher Standards

Joe Yeado: While at the gym last week, I overheard two fathers discussing the homework their elementary and middle school children were bringing home. The general feeling was that the homework was too hard and that students were being asked to do complex tasks in earlier grades than when the dads were kids. They lamented … Continue reading Higher Academic Achievement May Require Higher Standards

What Makes a School Successful?

OECD Pisa: Equipping citizens with the skills necessary to achieve their full potential, participate in an increasingly interconnected global economy, and ultimately convert better jobs into better lives is a central preoccupation of policy makers around the world. Results from the OECD’s recent Survey of Adult Skills show that highly skilled adults are twice as … Continue reading What Makes a School Successful?

Commentary on standardized Tests

Grant Wiggins: An old lament. Here’s what bugs me. Many of us made this argument 25 years ago. The limited value of secret one-shot standardized tests as feedback has been known for decades. They may be acceptable as low-stake audits; they are wretched as feedback mechanisms and as high-stakes audits. Why don’t audits work when … Continue reading Commentary on standardized Tests

How kids compare against their parents’ level of schooling

The Economist SOCIAL mobility, or the lack of it, gnaws at the consciences of governments. Better opportunities for those born without the local equivalent of a silver spoon in the mouth is a common electoral promise. Some recent data suggest it is hard to deliver. The OECD’s latest “Education at a Glance” report compares how … Continue reading How kids compare against their parents’ level of schooling

What U.S. schools can learn from Poland

Hechinger Report By any measure, Poland has made remarkable education progress since the fall of the Berlin Wall. On the most recent 2012 international tests of 15-year-olds, known as PISA tests, Poland ranked 9th in reading and 14th in math among all 65 countries and sub-regions that took the test. It used to be on … Continue reading What U.S. schools can learn from Poland

Education successes offer template for Oklahoma

The Oklahoman: STUDENT achievement has surged dramatically in several countries around the world, surpassing the United States. Journalist Amanda Ripley convincingly suggests those nations’ experiences should inform education policy in Oklahoma. In writing “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way,” Ripley reviewed other nations’ school systems and interviewed foreign-exchange students. … Continue reading Education successes offer template for Oklahoma

Eton headmaster: England’s exam system unimaginative and outdated

Rebecca Ratcliffe: England’s “unimaginative” exam system is little changed from Victorian times and fails to prepare young people for modern working life, Eton’s headmaster has said. Tony Little said there was a risk that “misleading” test scores may become more important than education itself, and warned against a narrow focus on topping rankings. “There is … Continue reading Eton headmaster: England’s exam system unimaginative and outdated

It’s harder to be a poor student in the U.S. than in Russia

Roberto Ferdman: It isn’t easy to be a disadvantaged high school student anywhere, but the U.S. education system appears to be particularly unkind to its less privileged youth. Poor students have a tougher time overcoming their socioeconomic odds in the U.S. than in Canada, France, Russia, and 33 other countries, according to a new global … Continue reading It’s harder to be a poor student in the U.S. than in Russia

Commentary on School Choice in Sweden

Ray Fisman: very three years, Americans wring their hands over the state of our schools compared with those in other countries. The occasion is the triennial release of global scholastic achievement rankings based on exams administered by the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which tests students in 65 countries in math, science, and … Continue reading Commentary on School Choice in Sweden

American Teens Achieve Mediocrity In Financial Literacy, Local math & reading background

Michelle Hackman: When it comes to financial literacy around the world, American teens are middling. The United States may fuel the world’s largest economy and operate its most robust financial system. But compared to the financial prowess of teenagers in 17 other countries, U.S. teens come off downright mediocre. That’s according to a new study … Continue reading American Teens Achieve Mediocrity In Financial Literacy, Local math & reading background

Americans think we have the world’s best colleges. We Don’t

Kevin Carey: Americans have a split vision of education. Conventional wisdom has long held that our K-12 schools are mediocre or worse, while our colleges and universities are world class. While policy wonks hotly debate K-12 reform ideas like vouchers and the Common Core state standards, higher education is largely left to its own devices. … Continue reading Americans think we have the world’s best colleges. We Don’t

The five trillion dollar question

John Fallon: And if the “doubling” part may seem a little ambitious, remember this. If every class in every school in every country that participates in PISA could get even close to the highest performing comparable ones, you would comfortably achieve that goal of doubling learning outcomes. This is the challenge: how can we help … Continue reading The five trillion dollar question

U.S. Students from Educated Families Lag in International Tests

Eric A. Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson and Ludger Woessmann: “The big picture of U.S. performance on the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is straightforward and stark: It is a picture of educational stagnation…. Fifteen-year olds in the U.S. today are average in science and reading literacy, and below average in mathematics, compared to … Continue reading U.S. Students from Educated Families Lag in International Tests

Lessons From the World’s Best Public School

Grant Birmingham: Jinjing Liu, a 15-year-old ninth-grader at Meilong Intermediate in central Shanghai—and part of the best education system in the world’s most populous country—is ticking off her normal class schedule: “Physics, chemistry, math, Chinese, English, Chinese literature, geography…the usual stuff,” she says in impeccable English. That’s not Jinjing’s school day schedule; that’s her workload … Continue reading Lessons From the World’s Best Public School

Why 14 Wisconsin high schools take international standardized test

Alan Borsuk: Patricia Deklotz, superintendent of the Kettle Moraine School District, said her district, west of Milwaukee, is generally high performing. But, Deklotz asked, if they talk a lot about getting students ready for the global economy, are they really doing it? PISA is a way to find out. “It raises the bar from comparing … Continue reading Why 14 Wisconsin high schools take international standardized test

Solving China’s Schools: An Interview with Jiang Xueqin

Ian Johnson: In December, China stunned the world when the most widely used international education assessment revealed that Shanghai’s schools now outperform those of any other country—not only in math and science but also in reading. Some education experts have attributed these results to recent reforms undertaken by the Chinese government. Jiang Xueqin has been … Continue reading Solving China’s Schools: An Interview with Jiang Xueqin

US students rank better internationally on new problem solving test than they do on conventional math and reading exams

The Hechinger Report: Here’s a modest test result to bolster the argument of those who say the American educational system isn’t so terrible. On a new creative problem-solving test taken by students in 44 countries and regions, U.S. 15-year-olds scored above the international average and rank at number 18 in the world. That’s much better … Continue reading US students rank better internationally on new problem solving test than they do on conventional math and reading exams

The worst thing about China’s education system

Kan Wei:

Chinese pupils are once again at the top of international education rankings. Recent further in-depth analysis of results from the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests, have now shown that it’s not just pupils from Shanghai and Beijing coming top of the class. Children from rural areas and disadvantaged environments of China also outperformed peers in other countries.
UK education secretary Liz Truss is leading a visit to China with a group of teachers to observe why. But she should be mindful of copying a system that is being questioned by some Chinese researchers for the stress it puts on children.
Chinese pupils spend more time in school than British children. School days are longer and holidays are shorter. On average, under the current system, the length of the secondary school year is 245 days. Chinese pupils get around four weeks off in winter, and seven weeks in summer, including weekends and all kinds of traditional festivals. That’s a total of 175 days off, 37 days fewer than UK pupils.

Skills are more than the sum of school data

Andrew Hill:

Pisa stands for Programme for International Student Assessment. But judging from the reaction to the OECD rankings of educational attainment, it may as well mean Parental Index of Social Anxiety.
The latest analysis of the global league table showed that the 15-year-old children of Chinese janitors and street-sweepers were better at maths than the offspring of many other countries’ professionals and managers. The news added fuel to this week’s visit to Shanghai by a UK education minister, bent on finding the secret of local children’s success and replicating it at home.
But British concerns were reflected around the world, with telling local variants. Spain’s El Confidencial highlighted that Madrid’s teenagers were outperforming Catalonia’s. Corriere della Sera wondered why, against the grain of other countries, the children of Italian managers beat those of professionals, who have higher educational attainment. (If you will inherit the family law firm or accounting practice, you get lazy, suggested one OECD researcher).

Teaching mathematics: Time for a ceasefire



The Economist:

IF THE world’s education systems have a common focus, it is to turn out school-leavers who are proficient in mathematics. Governments are impressed by evidence from the World Bank and others that better maths results raises GDP and incomes. That, together with the soul-searching provoked by the cross-country PISA comparisons of 15-year-olds’ mathematical attainment produced by the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, is prompting educators in many places to look afresh at what maths to teach, and how to teach it.
Those countries languishing in the league tables fret about how to catch up without turning students off the subject with boring drill. Top performers, most of them Asian (see chart), fear that their focus on technical proficiency does not translate into an enthusiasm for maths after leaving school. And everyone worries about how to prepare pupils for a jobs market that will reward creative thinking ever more highly.
Maths education has been a battlefield before: the American “math wars” of the 1980s pitted traditionalists, who emphasised fluency in pen-and-paper calculations, against reformers led by the country’s biggest teaching lobby, who put real-world problem-solving, often with the help of calculators, at the centre of the curriculum. A backlash followed as parents and academics worried that the “new math” left pupils ill-prepared for university courses in mathematics and the sciences. But as many countries have since found, training pupils to ace exams is not the same as equipping them to use their hard-won knowledge in work and life.

Rural China’s tough lessons in resilience

Andreas Schleicher:

Students in Shanghai have the highest results in international Pisa tests. But what is the state of education for China’s rural poor, far away from the showcase cities? Andreas Schleicher, who runs the Pisa tests, went to find out.
About 1,900 miles south west of Shanghai is Qiao Tou Lian He elementary school.
It’s an hour’s drive from the town of Tengchong, which might seem a small distance in comparison, but most of the school’s children have never made it to Tengchong.
Providing an education for children in such sparsely-populated rural areas is one of China’s major challenges.
While the economic and social development of these rural regions has been remarkable, China’s coastal cities are racing ahead at an even faster pace.

Children of UK professionals fall behind Asians in maths

Helen Warrell:

The children of cleaners in Asian cities such as Shanghai and Singapore are better at maths than the offspring of doctors and lawyers in the US and UK, according to an analysis of the global Pisa test rankings published on Tuesday.
The international league table, first released by the OECD in December, had shown 15-year-olds in Shanghai to be top in maths, while the UK languished in 26th place and the US in 36th.
But fresh scrutiny has revealed that the state-educated children of British professionals are on average a whole school year behind the children of “elementary” workers in Shanghai in maths ability, and around three months behind the same group in Singapore. The gap is even wider between US professionals and Asian cleaners or caterers.

Let schools compete and students will be winners

Gabriel Sahlgren and Julian Le Grand:

Put a child of a cleaner from Shanghai or Singapore up against a scion of the western elite in a standardised test and guess who will come out top? According to the latest research, the western kids will trail their Asian counterparts by the equivalent of a whole school year.
This prompted another bout of anxiety of a kind that has become increasingly common since 2001, when the global Pisa survey of educational attainment was first published. Parents once drew comfort from steady improvements in school-leaving grades in places such as the UK. Confronted with evidence of how their children’s accomplishments compared to those of students in faraway places, many westerners have taken fright.
Next week Elizabeth Truss, a British education minister, will lead a fact-finding mission to Shanghai to try to find out what the schools there are doing right. Yet in their rush to copy the winning formula of high-performing countries in east Asia, politicians risk drawing the wrong conclusions. Schools in Shanghai are very different from those in Ms Truss’s constituency in southwest Norfolk. But not all of those differences play a role in Shanghai’s superior performance. Some are irrelevant. Some may even be harmful. And some will be idiosyncratic features of the school she happens to visit, rather than representative of the system. It is easy to point out how a good school differs from a bad one, and conclude that you have found the secret to high achievement – but it is also lazy, unscientific and wrong.

What’s Holding Back American Teenagers? Our high schools are a disaster

Laurence Steinberg:

High school, where kids socialize, show off their clothes, use their phones–and, oh yeah, go to class.
Every once in a while, education policy squeezes its way onto President Obama’s public agenda, as it did in during last month’s State of the Union address. Lately, two issues have grabbed his (and just about everyone else’s) attention: early-childhood education and access to college. But while these scholastic bookends are important, there is an awful lot of room for improvement between them. American high schools, in particular, are a disaster.
In international assessments, our elementary school students generally score toward the top of the distribution, and our middle school students usually place somewhat above the average. But our high school students score well below the international average, and they fare especially badly in math and science compared with our country’s chief economic rivals.
What’s holding back our teenagers?
One clue comes from a little-known 2003 study based on OECD data that compares the world’s 15-year-olds on two measures of student engagement: participation and “belongingness.” The measure of participation was based on how often students attended school, arrived on time, and showed up for class. The measure of belongingness was based on how much students felt they fit in to the student body, were liked by their schoolmates, and felt that they had friends in school. We might think of the first measure as an index of academic engagement and the second as a measure of social engagement.
On the measure of academic engagement, the U.S. scored only at the international average, and far lower than our chief economic rivals: China, Korea, Japan, and Germany. In these countries, students show up for school and attend their classes more reliably than almost anywhere else in the world. But on the measure of social engagement, the United States topped China, Korea, and Japan.
In America, high school is for socializing. It’s a convenient gathering place, where the really important activities are interrupted by all those annoying classes. For all but the very best American students–the ones in AP classes bound for the nation’s most selective colleges and universities–high school is tedious and unchallenging. Studies that have tracked American adolescents’ moods over the course of the day find that levels of boredom are highest during their time in school.
It’s not just No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top that has failed our adolescents–it’s every single thing we have tried.
One might be tempted to write these findings off as mere confirmation of the well-known fact that adolescents find everything boring. In fact, a huge proportion of the world’s high school students say that school is boring. But American high schools are even more boring than schools in nearly every other country, according to OECD surveys. And surveys of exchange students who have studied in America, as well as surveys of American adolescents who have studied abroad, confirm this. More than half of American high school students who have studied in another country agree that our schools are easier. Objectively, they are probably correct: American high school students spend far less time on schoolwork than their counterparts in the rest of the world.
Trends in achievement within the U.S. reveal just how bad our high schools are relative to our schools for younger students. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, routinely tests three age groups: 9-year-olds, 13-year-olds, and 17-year-olds. Over the past 40 years, reading scores rose by 6 percent among 9-year-olds and 3 percent among 13-year-olds. Math scores rose by 11 percent among 9-year-olds and 7 percent among 13-year-olds.
By contrast, high school students haven’t made any progress at all. Reading and math scores have remained flat among 17-year-olds, as have their scores on subject area tests in science, writing, geography, and history. And by absolute, rather than relative, standards, American high school students’ achievement is scandalous.
In other words, over the past 40 years, despite endless debates about curricula, testing, teacher training, teachers’ salaries, and performance standards, and despite billions of dollars invested in school reform, there has been no improvement–none–in the academic proficiency of American high school students.
It’s not just No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top that has failed our adolescents–it’s every single thing we have tried. The list of unsuccessful experiments is long and dispiriting. Charter high schools don’t perform any better than standard public high schools, at least with respect to student achievement. Students whose teachers “teach for America” don’t achieve any more than those whose teachers came out of conventional teacher certification programs. Once one accounts for differences in the family backgrounds of students who attend public and private high schools, there is no advantage to going to private school, either. Vouchers make no difference in student outcomes. No wonder school administrators and teachers from Atlanta to Chicago to my hometown of Philadelphia have been caught fudging data on student performance. It’s the only education strategy that consistently gets results.
The especially poor showing of high schools in America is perplexing. It has nothing to do with high schools having a more ethnically diverse population than elementary schools. In fact, elementary schools are more ethnically diverse than high schools, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Nor do high schools have more poor students. Elementary schools in America are more than twice as likely to be classified as “high-poverty” than secondary schools. Salaries are about the same for secondary and elementary school teachers. They have comparable years of education and similar years of experience. Student-teacher ratios are the same in our elementary and high schools. So are the amounts of time that students spend in the classroom. We don’t shortchange high schools financially either; American school districts actually spend a little more per capita on high school students than elementary school students.
Our high school classrooms are not understaffed, underfunded, or underutilized, by international standards. According to a 2013 OECD report, only Luxembourg, Norway, and Switzerland spend more per student. Contrary to widespread belief, American high school teachers’ salaries are comparable to those in most European and Asian countries, as are American class sizes and student-teacher ratios. And American high school students actually spend as many or more hours in the classroom each year than their counterparts in other developed countries.
This underachievement is costly: One-fifth of four-year college entrants and one-half of those entering community college need remedial education, at a cost of $3 billion each year.
The president’s call for expanding access to higher education by making college more affordable, while laudable on the face of it, is not going to solve our problem. The president and his education advisers have misdiagnosed things. The U.S. has one of the highest rates of college entry in the industrialized world. Yet it is tied for last in the rate of college completion. More than one-third of U.S. students who enter a full-time, two-year college program drop out just after one year, as do about one fifth of students who enter a four-year college. In other words, getting our adolescents to go to college isn’t the issue. It’s getting them to graduate.
If this is what we hope to accomplish, we need to rethink high school in America. It is true that providing high-quality preschool to all children is an important component of comprehensive education reform. But we can’t just do this, cross our fingers, and hope for the best. Early intervention is an investment, not an inoculation.
In recent years experts in early-child development have called for programs designed to strengthen children’s “non-cognitive” skills, pointing to research that demonstrates that later scholastic success hinges not only on conventional academic abilities but on capacities like self-control. Research on the determinants of success in adolescence and beyond has come to a similar conclusion: If we want our teenagers to thrive, we need to help them develop the non-cognitive traits it takes to complete a college degree–traits like determination, self-control, and grit. This means classes that really challenge students to work hard–something that fewer than one in six high school students report experiencing, according to Diploma to Nowhere, a 2008 report published by Strong American Schools. Unfortunately, our high schools demand so little of students that these essential capacities aren’t nurtured. As a consequence, many high school graduates, even those who have acquired the necessary academic skills to pursue college coursework, lack the wherewithal to persevere in college. Making college more affordable will not fix this problem, though we should do that too.
The good news is that advances in neuroscience are revealing adolescence to be a second period of heightened brain plasticity, not unlike the first few years of life. Even better, brain regions that are important for the development of essential non-cognitive skills are among the most malleable. And one of the most important contributors to their maturation is pushing individuals beyond their intellectual comfort zones.
It’s time for us to stop squandering this opportunity. Our kids will never rise to the challenge if the challenge doesn’t come.

Laurence Steinberg is a psychology professor at Temple University and author of the forthcoming Age of Opportunity: Revelations from the New Science of Adolescence.
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Why is Singapore’s school system so successful, and is it a model for the West?

David Hogan:

For more than a decade, Singapore, along with South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Finland, has been at or near the top of international leagues tables that measure children’s ability in reading, maths and science. This has led to a considerable sense of achievement in Finland and East Asia and endless hand-wringing and head-scratching in the West.
What then do Singaporean teachers do in classrooms that is so special, bearing in mind that there are substantial differences in classroom practices between – as well as within – the top-performing countries? What are the particular strengths of Singapore’s instructional regime that helps it perform so well? What are its limits and constraints?
Is it the right model for countries seeking to prepare students properly for the complex demands of 21st century knowledge economies and institutional environments more generally? Is Singapore’s teaching system transferable to other countries? Or is its success so dependent on very specific institutional and cultural factors unique to Singapore that it is folly to imagine that it might be reproduced elsewhere?

Estonia the new Finland? Surprising Test Results For Some Of The World’s Richest Students

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Jan Diehm & Joy Resmovits:

The WorldPost has gotten the first look at the math scores of students at every socioeconomic decile from the 65 countries that participate in the Programme for International Student Assessment. What they reveal about the correlation between wealth and a student’s academic performance is surprising.
The data was provided to The WorldPost by Pablo Zoido, an analyst at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the group behind PISA. It shows that students’ wealth does not necessarily make them more competitive on an international scale. In the United States, for example, the poorest kids scored around a 433 out of 700 on the math portion of PISA, while the wealthiest ones netted about a 547. The lower score comes in just below the OECD average for the bottom decile (436), but the higher score also comes in below the OECD average for the top decile (554).
“At the top of the distribution, our performance is surprisingly bad given our top decile is among the wealthiest in the world,” said Morgan Polikoff, a professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Education who reviewed the data.

Here’s the truth about Shanghai schools: they’re terrible

Saga Ringmar:

The western world watches China’s rise as a formidable world-power with a mixture of awe and apprehension. Sci-fi films depict a futuristic world where Baidu.com is the new Google and Mcdonalds has been replaced by Grandma Wang’s Dumpling Emporium. And yet again Shanghai is number one on the Programme for International Student Assessment’s (Pisa) 2012 ranking list of international education, and the US is once again at a low rank, this time 36th place. The US is desperate, and naturally the Chinese educational system seems like an answer. But let me tell you – this is not the case. I know; for two years I attended a local Shanghainese high school and this is the truth: they are terrible.
The biggest problem with Chinese education? It’s medieval. Shanghainese education is just like the stories my grandmother tells about high school in the 1940’s. Footage of military parades in Fascist Italy share an unnerving resemblance to the morning assemblies from my school in Shanghai. Chinese education would be a poison for America, not a remedy.
The problem is that there are too many Chinese students. Shanghainese classrooms have about 40 students and in the countryside classes have over 60. The most efficient way to organize all these children is by testing, categorizing and grading them – Chinese education is essentially elitist. Students that excel in school are rewarded with prizes and encouragement, but struggling students are abandoned. I once served as a translator for the principal of my school when seven Swedish principals came to visit Shanghai. The Swedes asked what the school did for students with “special needs” and the principal answered:

China’s academic obsession with testing

Kelly Yang, via a kind John Dickert email:

This month, for the third time in a row, the Asians kicked American butt — academically, that is. On reading, science and math, students in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore earned the top scores on the international PISA test. U.S. students scored below or near the worldwide average, prompting suggestions that American education as a whole is failing. As a Hong Kong educator, I’m confident that the last thing the United States needs to copy is Chinese education.
Here in this city of 2 million parents , there are 2 million school principals, all ordering after-school academic courses like appetizers in a restaurant. Parents are the headmasters because our schools no longer control the education process. A 2011 survey estimated that 72 percent of Hong Kong high school students receive tutoring outside of school, often until late in the evening. So when our schools get out, the school day is just beginning for most kids.
Long before the term “tiger mom” was coined, Chinese parents had a history of obsessing over academics. The other day, I overheard two parents talking about their sons. One mom turned to the other and shrieked, “I found him in his room, just sitting there. Not doing anything!” The other gasped and shook her head in disbelief.
Their sons are 6 years old.

The Shanghai Secret

Tom Friedman:

Whenever I visit China, I am struck by the sharply divergent predictions of its future one hears. Lately, a number of global investors have been “shorting” China, betting that someday soon its powerful economic engine will sputter, as the real estate boom here turns to a bust. Frankly, if I were shorting China today, it would not be because of the real estate bubble, but because of the pollution bubble that is increasingly enveloping some of its biggest cities. Optimists take another view: that, buckle in, China is just getting started, and that what we’re now about to see is the payoff from China’s 30 years of investment in infrastructure and education. I’m not a gambler, so I’ll just watch this from the sidelines. But if you’re looking for evidence as to why the optimistic bet isn’t totally crazy, you might want to visit a Shanghai elementary school.
I’ve traveled here with Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America, and the leaders of the Teach for All programs modeled on Teach for America that are operating in 32 countries. We’re visiting some of the highest- and lowest-performing schools in China to try to uncover The Secret — how is it that Shanghai’s public secondary schools topped the world charts in the 2009 PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) exams that measure the ability of 15-year-olds in 65 countries to apply what they’ve learned in math, science and reading.
After visiting Shanghai’s Qiangwei Primary School, with 754 students — grades one through five — and 59 teachers, I think I found The Secret:
There is no secret.

What worries a real defense expert these days? The state of American education

Eve Hunter

Norm Augustine, former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, former Pentagon official, former just about everything defense-related, was invited earlier this month to tackle the topic of the greatest threats to the United States. Speaking to the Johns Hopkins Rethinking Seminar Series, he delivered a forceful critique of the U.S. education system.
For the most part, he cited the figures we have oft heard but choose to not think about due to the herculean nature of reform. Test scores this year have reached a record low. U.S. students from the Class of 2011 ranked 32nd out of 34 OECD countries participating in the international PISA test. California has raised tuition and fees for higher education by 65 percent in the past three years.

Related: www.wisconsin2.org

The Vital Link of Education and Prosperity

Paul Peterson & Eric Hanushek:

Americans are aware of public education’s many failures–the elevated high-school dropout rates, the need for remedial work among entering college students. One metric in particular stands out: Only 32% of U.S. high-school students are proficient in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. When the NAEP results are put on the scale of the Program on International Student Assessment (PISA), the world’s best source of information on student achievement, the comparable proficiency rates in math are 45% in Germany, 49% in Canada, and 63% in Singapore, the highest performing independent nation.
The subpar performance of U.S. students has wide ramifications–and not just for individuals. On an individual level, of course, the connection between education and income is obvious. Those with a college degree can expect to earn over 60% more in the course of their lifetime than those with a high-school diploma, according to U.S. Census data. But there is a nexus between educational achievement and national prosperity as well.
According to our calculations, raising student test scores in this country up to the level in Canada would dramatically increase economic growth. We estimate that the additional growth dividend has a present value of $77 trillion over the next 80 years. This is equivalent to adding an average 20% to the paycheck of every worker for every year of work over this time period.

My Little (Global) School

Thomas Friedman, via a kind reader’s email:

There was a time when middle-class parents in America could be — and were — content to know that their kids’ public schools were better than those in the next neighborhood over. As the world has shrunk, though, the next neighborhood over is now Shanghai or Helsinki. So, last August, I wrote a column quoting Andreas Schleicher — who runs the global exam that compares how 15-year-olds in public schools around the world do in applied reading, math and science skills — as saying imagine, in a few years, that you could sign on to a Web site and see how your school compares with a similar school anywhere in the world. And then you could take this information to your superintendent and ask: “Why are we not doing as well as schools in China or Finland?”
Well, that day has come, thanks to a successful pilot project involving 105 U.S. schools recently completed by Schleicher’s team at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which coordinates the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA test, and Jon Schnur’s team at America Achieves, which partnered with the O.E.C.D. Starting this fall, any high school in America will be able to benchmark itself against the world’s best schools, using a new tool that schools can register for at www.americaachieves.org. It is comparable to PISA and measures how well students can apply their mastery of reading, math and science to real world problems.
The pilot study was described in an America Achieves report entitled “Middle Class or Middle of the Pack?” that is being released Wednesday. The report compares U.S. middle-class students to their global peers of similar socioeconomic status on the 2009 PISA exams.
The bad news is that U.S. middle-class students are badly lagging their peers globally. “Many assume that poverty in America is pulling down the overall U.S. scores,” the report said, “but when you divide each nation into socioeconomic quarters, you can see that even America’s middle-class students are falling behind not only students of comparable advantage, but also more disadvantaged students in several other countries.”
American students in the second quarter of socioeconomic advantage — mostly higher middle class — were significantly outperformed by 24 countries in math and by 15 countries in science, the study found. In the third quarter of socioeconomic advantage — mostly lower middle class — U.S. students were significantly outperformed by peers in 31 countries or regions in math and 25 in science.

Related: www.wisconsin2.org

Use Data to Build Better Schools

TED Talks:

How can we measure what makes a school system work? Andreas Schleicher walks us through the PISA test, a global measurement that ranks countries against one another — then uses that same data to help schools improve. Watch to find out where your country stacks up, and learn the single factor that makes some systems outperform others.
What makes a great school system? To find out, Andreas Schleicher administers a test to compare student performance around the world. Full bio »

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success

Anu Partanen:

Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West’s reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.
The small Nordic country of Finland used to be known — if it was known for anything at all — as the home of Nokia, the mobile phone giant. But lately Finland has been attracting attention on global surveys of quality of life — Newsweek ranked it number one last year — and Finland’s national education system has been receiving particular praise, because in recent years Finnish students have been turning in some of the highest test scores in the world.
Finland’s schools owe their newfound fame primarily to one study: the PISA survey, conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The survey compares 15-year-olds in different countries in reading, math, and science. Finland has ranked at or near the top in all three competencies on every survey since 2000, neck and neck with superachievers such as South Korea and Singapore. In the most recent survey in 2009 Finland slipped slightly, with students in Shanghai, China, taking the best scores, but the Finns are still near the very top. Throughout the same period, the PISA performance of the United States has been middling, at best.

TIMSS fraction item

Dr. Richard Askey, via a kind email (PDF):

TIMSS is an international set of tests on mathematics and science which is given every four years in grades 4 and 8 to a sample of students, and occasionally for a sample of students taking advanced mathematics and physics in their last year in high school. All of these will be given in 2015.
The following useful link gives access to the released TIMSS-2011 items and the scores different countries made on these items.
…………
One interesting fact is that among the 42 countries which tested 8th grade students, Finland had the highest percent of students who picked answer A and the third lowest percent correct, Chile had 11.7and Sweden had 14.4 percent. The Finnish result is likely a surprise to the people who have praised the Finnish school system for their results on another international test, PISA. However, one group which would not be surprised are university and technical college mathematics faculty in Finland. See an article signed by over 200 of them which is on the web at:
http://solmu.math.helsinki.fi/2005/erik/PisaEng.html

Has Liz Truss tried looking after six toddlers? I have I scored myself six kids to test-drive the minister’s theory that adults should be allowed to look after more children

Zoe Williams:

The Conservative MP Liz Truss, like so many in public policy, has noticed that childcare is unaffordable – families in the UK spend nearly a third of their income on it; more than anyone else in the world.
Truss is unique, I think, in identifying the problem as over-regulation – specifically, she thinks the current adult-to-child ratios are too stringent. In her plan, one adult would be able to care for six two-year-olds (at the moment it’s four). This would force up wages (apparently), and professionalise the role of childcare – which process, incidentally, would be shored up by new requirements, including C grades in maths and English GCSEs.
Opinion gathered along party lines – rightwing thinktanks and blogs hailed this as Truss’s “moment”; lefties said she was barking. Ah, the smell of Napisan in the morning, I love it. But did anybody test-drive her theory for her, even in its planning stage? I do not think they did.

Index of cognitive skills and educational attainment

Economist intelligence Unit:

The Global Index of Cognitive Skills and Educational Attainment compares the performance of 39 countries and one region (Hong Kong) on two categories of education: Cognitive Skills and Educational Attainment. The Index provides a snapshot of the relative performance of countries based on their education outputs.
The indicators used in this Index are:
– Cognitive Skills: PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS scores in Reading, Maths and Science
– Educational Attainment: literacy and graduation rates
How is the Index calculated?
The overall index score is the weighted sum of the underlying two category scores. Likewise, the category scores are the weighted sum of the underlying indicator scores (see below for the default weights applied). Each indicator score is calculated on the basis of a z-score normalisation process. This process enables the comparison and aggregation of different data sets (on different scales), and the scoring of countries on the basis of their comparative performance.
What is a z-score?
A z-score indicates how many standard deviations an observation is above or below the mean. To compute the z-score, the EIU first calculated each indicator’s mean and standard deviation using the data for the countries in the Index, and then the distance of the observation from the mean in terms of standard deviations.

Related: www.wisconsin2.org

Arthur Levine – The Suburban Education Gap: The U.S. economy could be $1 trillion a year stronger if Americans only performed at Canada’s level in math

Arthur Levine, via a kind Erich Zellmer email:

Parents nationwide are familiar with the wide academic achievement gaps separating American students of different races, family incomes and ZIP Codes. But a second crucial achievement gap receives far less attention. It is the disparity between children in America’s top suburban schools and their peers in the highest-performing school systems elsewhere in the world.
Of the 70 countries tested by the widely used Program for International Student Assessment, the United States falls in the middle of the pack. This is the case even for relatively well-off American students: Of American 15-year-olds with at least one college-educated parent, only 42% are proficient in math, according to a Harvard University study of the PISA results. That is compared with 75% proficiency for all 15-year-olds in Shanghai and 50% for those in Canada.
Compared with big urban centers, America’s affluent suburbs have roughly four times as many students performing at the academic level of their international peers in math. But when American suburbs are compared with two of the top school systems in the world–in Finland and Singapore–very few, such as Evanston, Ill., and Scarsdale, N.Y., outperform the international competition. Most of the other major suburban areas underperform the international competition. That includes the likes of Grosse Point, Mich., Montgomery County, Md., and Greenwich, Conn. And most underperform substantially, according to the Global Report Card database of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Related: The Global Report: Compare US School Districts to the World.

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success

Anu Partanen:

Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West’s reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.
The small Nordic country of Finland used to be known — if it was known for anything at all — as the home of Nokia, the mobile phone giant. But lately Finland has been attracting attention on global surveys of quality of life — Newsweek ranked it number one last year — and Finland’s national education system has been receiving particular praise, because in recent years Finnish students have been turning in some of the highest test scores in the world.
Finland’s schools owe their newfound fame primarily to one study: the PISA survey, conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The survey compares 15-year-olds in different countries in reading, math, and science. Finland has ranked at or near the top in all three competencies on every survey since 2000, neck and neck with superachievers such as South Korea and Singapore. In the most recent survey in 2009 Finland slipped slightly, with students in Shanghai, China, taking the best scores, but the Finns are still near the very top. Throughout the same period, the PISA performance of the United States has been middling, at best.

Florida Students Take Global Examinations, Wisconsin’s Don’t

Lydia Southwell

Before full implementation of the Common Core State Standards, Florida is gathering information about how our students compare internationally in reading, mathematics and science. We are participating in Trends in the International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Adjustments to Florida standards will be made based on the results of these studies.

How does Wisconsin compare? Learn more at www.wisconsin2.org.

The Global Report: Compare US School Districts to the World

The Global Report Card, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

The Global Report Card was developed by Jay P. Greene and Josh B. McGee as part of the George W. Bush Institute’s Education Reform Initiative. The Bush Institute works to increase dramatically the number of American students who graduate high school ready for college or prepared for a good career by:

  • cultivating a new generation of principals
  • implementing cutting edge research
  • advancing accountability

Driven by accountability and data, these initiatives challenge the status quo and lead a wide range of partners to share goals and use clear metrics tied to student achievement.
Summary of Methodology
The calculations begin by evaluating the distributions of student achievement at the state, national, and international level. To allow for direct comparisons across state and national borders, and thus testing instruments, we map all testing data to the standard normal curve using the appropriate student level mean and standard deviation. We then calculate at the lowest level of aggregation by estimating average district quality within each state. Each state’s average quality is evaluated then using national testing data. And finally, the average national quality is determined using international testing data. Essentially, this re-centers our distribution of district quality based upon the relative performance of the individual state when compared to the nation as a whole as well as the relative performance of the nation when compared to our economic competitors.
For example, the average student in Scarsdale School District in Westchester County, New York scored nearly one standard deviation above the mean for New York on the state’s math exam. The average student in New York scored six hundredths of a standard deviation above the national average of the NAEP exam given in the same year, and the average student in the United States scored about as far in the negative direction (-.055) from the international average on PISA. Our final index score for Scarsdale in 2007 is equal to the sum of the district, state, and national estimates (1+.06+ -.055 = 1.055). Since the final index score is expired in standard deviation units, it can easily be converted to a percentile for easy interpretation. In our example, Scarsdale would rank at the seventy seventh percentile internationally in math.

The Best United States School Districts (2007 Math data) [PDF].
Related: www.wisconsin2.org and 1990-2010 US High School & College Graduation Comparison.

The great schools revolution Education remains the trickiest part of attempts to reform the public sector. But as ever more countries embark on it, some vital lessons are beginning to be learned



The Economist via a kind Mary Battaglia email

FROM Toronto to Wroclaw, London to Rome, pupils and teachers have been returning to the classroom after their summer break. But this September schools themselves are caught up in a global battle of ideas. In many countries education is at the forefront of political debate, and reformers desperate to improve their national performance are drawing examples of good practice from all over the world.
Why now? One answer is the sheer amount of data available on performance, not just within countries but between them. In 2000 the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) at the OECD, a rich-country club, began tracking academic attainment by the age of 15 in 32 countries. Many were shocked by where they came in the rankings. (PISA’s latest figures appear in table 1.) Other outfits, too, have been measuring how good or bad schools are. McKinsey, a consultancy, has monitored which education systems have improved most in recent years.

Related: www.wisconsin2.org.

The great schools revolution

The Economist:

Education remains the trickiest part of attempts to reform the public sector. But as ever more countries embark on it, some vital lessons are beginning to be learned
FROM Toronto to Wroclaw, London to Rome, pupils and teachers have been returning to the classroom after their summer break. But this September schools themselves are caught up in a global battle of ideas. In many countries education is at the forefront of political debate, and reformers desperate to improve their national performance are drawing examples of good practice from all over the world.
Why now? One answer is the sheer amount of data available on performance, not just within countries but between them. In 2000 the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) at the OECD, a rich-country club, began tracking academic attainment by the age of 15 in 32 countries. Many were shocked by where they came in the rankings. (PISA’s latest figures appear in table 1.) Other outfits, too, have been measuring how good or bad schools are. McKinsey, a consultancy, has monitored which education systems have improved most in recent years.

Related: www.wisconsin2.org