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The Best Sites For Getting Some Perspective On International Test Comparison Demagoguery

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release of test scores from 65 countries, and Shanghai’s top-ranking results, has already begun to be used by “school reformers” to further their agenda.

(Also, see The Best Posts & Articles On 2012 PISA Test Results)

I thought I’d put together a short list of articles and blog posts that put these test results in perspective:

High Test Scores, Low Ability by Yong Zhao in The New York Times

Do international test comparisons make sense? by Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post.

Hysteria over PISA misses the point, again by Valerie Strauss at the Post.

Economic and social failures blamed on schools by Walt Gardner in The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Put PISA in Perspective is another post by Walt Gardner.

On Those ‘Stunning’ Shanghai Test Scores by James Fallows at The Atlantic.

Poverty has a huge impact on American PISA scores by Stephen Krashen

A True Wake-up Call for Arne Duncan: The Real Reason Behind Chinese Students Top PISA Performance by Yong Zhao

Remember: Not Everyone Prioritizes Achievement by Corey Bower

What international test scores really tell us: Lessons buried in PISA report from The Washington Post

Are Public Education Chicken Littles Wrong? is by Dr. Jim Taylor

PISA: It’s Poverty Not Stupid is an important post over at The Principal Difference. It’s by Mel Riddile.

Chinese Top In Tests, But Still Have Lots To Learn is a very interesting piece from NPR.

Here’s an excerpt of a conversation with a Shanghai principal:

“Developed countries like the U.S. shouldn’t be too surprised by these results. They’re just one index, one measure that shows off the good points of Shanghai’s and China’s education system. But the results can’t cover up our problems,” he says. Liu is very frank about those problems — the continuing reliance on rote learning, the lack of analysis or critical thinking — and he says the system is in dire need of reform. “Why don’t Chinese students dare to think? Because we insist on telling them everything. We’re not getting our kids to go and find things out for themselves,” he says.
As well as the limitations of the Chinese education system, Liu says, it was only students in Shanghai who took the PISA tests, and Shanghai has some of the best schools in China
.

I have no idea how Alexander Russo found this post, but it’s a good one. It’s titled The amazing truth about PISA scores: USA beats Western Europe, ties with Asia, and offers a great analysis of the recent PISA scores. The blog which published it says it gives “Kurdish-Swedish perspectives on the American Economy.” It’s statistical analysis may be the best I’ve seen anywhere. However, I can’t say the same for its perspective on U.S. politics and education policy, which is a bit strange. But that part is only a very small portion of the post.

The New York Times published an article on the Shanghai PISA test results. Here’s an excerpt:

The Shanghai students performed well, experts say, for the same reason students from other parts of Asia — including South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong — do: Their education systems are steeped in discipline, rote learning and obsessive test preparation.

Yup, just want we want to do here, right?

The Test Chinese Schools Still Fail is the headline of an excellent column in the Wall Street Journal written by a principal of a Chinese high school. Here’s an excerpt:

“…using tests to structure schooling is a mistake. Students lose their innate inquisitiveness and imagination, and become insecure and amoral in the pursuit of high scores.”

Another Look at PISA is an excellent piece by Diane Ravitch at Ed Week.

PISA For Our Time: A Balanced Look is another excellent post from The Shanker blog.

To foster high-achievers, think beyond the classroom by Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post (who has missed the mark in the past while writing about education issues, but does a good job here)

U.S. Schools Are Still Ahead—Way Ahead is from Business Week.

“It makes no sense”: Puzzling over Obama’s State of the Union Speech is the title of an excellent new post by scholar Yong Zhao.

Jim Horn wrote a good post on the PISA international test scores.

Think Again: Education: Relax, America. Chinese math whizzes and Indian engineers aren’t stealing your kids’ future is from Foreign Policy Magazine

Standardized Tests and Foul Shooting: Look Out, Michael Jordan! is by John Sener.

U.S. Schools Are Still Ahead—Way Ahead is from Business Week.

‘Failing schools’ fallacy: Low test scores aren’t signs of nation’s economic decline is by Diane Ravitch.

Half-Truths in School Reform is by Walt Gardner at Education Week.

Fact Is, Students Have Never Known History is from NPR, and includes several good quotes from Diane Ravitch about international test results.

Walt Gardner at Ed Week again makes some good points about international test results.

The rumors of our sucking at math have been greatly exaggerated comes from The Julia Group.

How to Mold Public Opinion Against Public Schools is by Walt Gardner at Ed Week. I’m mainly including it here because of a paragraph he writes about the PISA Test:

The results of the Program for International Student Assessment showed that our students actually placed No. 1 when they were compared with students at schools abroad having similar poverty rates. To wit: schools in the U.S. with less than a 10 percent poverty rate posted a score of 551. Finland, which is widely acknowledged to have the world’s best schools, came in No. 2 at 536. Even when the poverty rate was as high as 24.9 percent, the U.S. held its top-rated position with a score of 527.

And, speaking of PISA, if you ever wanted to to know what it is, here’s an engaging video describing it:

International Rankings That Reformers Ignore: The Children Left Behind is by Larry Cuban.

International Test Scores, Irrelevant Policies is from Education Week.

The Grass Is Greener: Learning from Other Countries is by Yong Zhao.

Making Sense of International Test Competition is by Walt Gardner at Education Week.

The Difference between a $10,000 Education and a $10 Education is by Yong Zhao.

Time in school: How does the U.S. compare? is from The Center For Public Education.

Among the Many Things Wrong With International Achievement Comparisons is from Gene Glass.


New analysis makes case for higher ranking for U.S. schools
is from USA .

Relax, America. Chinese math whizzes and Indian engineers aren’t stealing your kids’ future is from Foreign Policy.

American Students Are Not Failing is a post by Diane Ravitch that talks about the video I’ve embedded below:

Professor Yong Zhao has done a fascinating analysis of the international PISA math assessments and found that:

 

Video Of Yong Zhao’s Keynote Speech At ISTE

L.A. Times Writes Shockingly Good Editorial On Schools — With Convenient Amnesia

Education reform’s central myths is from Salon.

In Math and Science, Have American Students Fallen Behind? is from The National Education Policy Center.

Why is PISA getting such a bad rap lately? is by Pat Buoncristiani.

Wow, What A Chart On International Education!

The Best Analyses Of ’s Release Of TIMSS and PIRLS International Student Test Results

The Test Ranking Obsession is by Walt Gardner at Ed Week.

PISA+TIMSS+PIRLS = GERM? is by Pasi Sahlberg.

International Test Scores Often Misinterpreted To Detriment Of U.S. Students, Argues New EPI Study is from The Huffington Post.

What Do International Tests Really Show About U.S. Student Performance is the actual EPI study.

U.S. scores on international test lowered by sampling error: report is from Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post.

West vs Asia education rankings are misleading is from The New Scientist.

You’ll Be Shocked by How Many of the World’s Top Students Are American is from The Atlantic.

Deborah Meier wrote two good posts on an article analyzing international test comparisons. That article is behind a paywall, but you can access a similar, earlier article by the same author.


Schooling Ourselves in an Unequal America
is a column from The New York Times that a number of good statistics on international school comparisons, but gets a little muddled in various places. Nevertheless, I’m still adding it to this list.

Is Pisa fundamentally flawed? is from tes Connect.

The fetishization of international test scores is by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post.

International test scores: Getting the data straight is from The Washington Post.

Responding to an Uninformed Critique is by Richard Rothstein and Martin Carnoy.

A PISA contradiction is by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post.

Compelling Evidence is from Stephen Krashen.

Why it’s hard for the US to learn from other countries on education is from Vox.

Additional suggestions are welcome.

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You might also want to explore the nearly 600 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

6 Comments

  1. Is PISA “a Sputnik wake-up” or are international comparisons invalid. Rather than wade into that debate, I’d rather look more closely at the questions in the PISA test and what student responses tell us about American education. You can put international comparisons aside for that analysis.

    Are American students able to analyze, reason and communicate their ideas effectively? Do they have the capacity to continue learning throughout life? Have schools been forced to sacrifice creative problem solving for “adequate yearly progress” on state tests?

    I focus on a sample PISA question that offers insights into what American students can (and cannot do) in my post “Stop Worrying About Shanghai, What PISA Test Really Tells Us About American Students” http://bit.ly/eChNoY

  2. Much of the obfuscating and unhelpful comments include talk about inland China areas other than Singapore and Hong Kong. This should not be part of the discussion as it weakens the argument. Make no mistake, students from (8th grade, in order) Taiepi, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, (and now Finland and many other places) have excellent critical thinking skills. Massachusetts and Minnesota are right after Japan in 8th grade in 2007 PISA results and nobody EVER mentions it.

    The person to talk to is Patrick Gonzales at National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. He has a presentation on Massachusetts and Minnesota and how their results rost when they adopted Singapore Math. Diane Ravich worked there during the first Bush administration and she is familiar with this. Patsy Wang-Iverson, the Director of Special Projects at the Gabriella and Paul Rosenbaum Foundation is the principal person I ask about Singapore Math pedagogy. If you think this foundation is like one of the conservative ignorance factories, think again. The board members are almost all professors of mathematics.

    These states have proven that anybody can decide to implement a math curriculum that is more effective in raising PISA results. Minnesota is particularly interesting as it has very loose state controls and demonstrates that strong regulation is comparatively unimportant. To get your state treated as a “mini-nation”, the cost is $250,000 per grade, ie $500,000 for 4th and 8th graders in a given state.

    I think the lessons of PISA and international measurements are that systems that work don’t include the sorts of things US ed reformers hold dear. It’s not rocket science.

    By the way, Canada and Australia have populations of indigenous natives and populations of immigrants. They have the same problems as the US. PISA tells us a lot. Canada and Australia can tell us a lot. We aren’t unique in the universe and one of the places conservative education reform takes you is a “we are unique” place that is highly dysfunctional.

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  5. Great ‘Chicken Little’ article. I’d like to see figures for the UK broken down like that …

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