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.”
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.