Monday, December 9, 2013

Here's what I learned from PISA

While it's true that this 5 minute video is about American education, there are key points that we all need to pay attention to.

Some highlights:
  • Privatizing education, high stakes testing, merit pay, union busting, closing schools and firing teachers are not new ideas. These are some of the failed strategies that some countries like the US have been implementing for decades.
  • The rankings provided by PISA are low hanging fruit. The real lessons are found from researching how each nation achieved their results. According to PISA, Finland and Asian countries are high achievers, but they became high achievers by focusing very different priorities.
  • Some countries like the US have never performed well on international tests.
  • The nature of ranking and sorting means that a country could drop in the rankings not because their schools are getting worse, but because other country's schools are getting better. Focusing on "who is beating who" is not the same thing as focusing on educating children.
  • Poverty's effect on educational equity matters. Standardized test scores are strongly influenced by socio-economics. 
  • When we control for poverty, affluent students in the US often actually outperform affluent students from other countries. At the same time, students living in poverty in the US perform similarily to students living in poverty in other countries. The problem for the US is that so many children live in poverty (1 in 4) which pulls their national average down on international tests like PISA.
  • Predictable, sustainable and equitable funding for public education matters.
  • High performing countries place more resources into disadvantaged students.
  • High performing countries pay teachers very well and refuse to villainize and blame teachers.
  • High performing countries provide teachers with time away from teaching students so that they can learn how to become better teachers. 
  • High performing countries tend to have strong teacher unions and governments that nurture a constructive relationship with teachers and their union.
  • High performing countries see education reform not as something done to students, parents and teachers but with them and by them collaboratively.

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