Friday, December 6, 2013

The Use of The PISA International Score Rankings as Current Leaderboard in Ed Is Just Wrong!

The country rankings indicated on the PISA international test scores should not be used like the current lineup in a NASCAR race to determine who's currently in the lead in the educational "Race to the Top" because these rankings by themselves tell us absolutely nothing. So when our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan begins his tales of woe and gloom and doom, be sure he's just using these to promote his own agenda. Sadly, this has been the practice a many of politician in recent times. Much of what Duncan has used to support his reform agenda has been a combination of half truths and what I would call benders because they either simply the real data or they ignore or dismiss other data just because it doesn't fit his propaganda. Sadly, we as educators still are letting Duncan and the media say these things without response.

In a blog post entitled "Reading the PISA Tea Leaves: Who Is Responsible for Finland's Decline and the Asian Magic," education scholar Yong Zhao points to an important point about all those Asian countries stacked at the top of the ratings. He states,
"The recipe for East Asian success is actually not that magical. It includes all the elements that have been identified as the symptoms of the GERM (Global Education Reform Movement) by the great Finnish education scholar Pasi  Sahlberg: Competition, Standardization, Frequent Testing and Privatization. In East Asia high performing systems, these ingredients are more effectively combined and carried out to extreme to result in societies devoted to ensure youngsters become excellent test takers."
Zhao points out further than while many of the East Asian countries are at the top of these international test rankings, they are "not at all happy with the outcomes of their education systems." They are producing some great test-takers, but they are not producing students capable of creative, innovative and entrepreneurial thinking. So even if the rankings mean something, the question becomes, "Do we want a nation of good test-takers? Or, do we want students capable of innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial thinking?" Zhao points out that these systems designed to facilitate a "Race to the Top" of national rankings are not going to provide the kinds of students capable of tackling the many problems we face.

Today, I stumbled across the video below that provides a fairly good perspective on these PISA scores. Admittedly, the video is produced by the American Federation of Teachers which may give one pause to consider its content, it still does get many things right about the misappropriated use of these international scores that is so commonly done by current education policy leaders.

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