Apples and Oranges : International ComparisonsAre we failing our students? ASCD Presentation Philadelphia March 24, 2012 Dr. Steve Rasmussen, SuperintendentIssaquah School District – Issaquah, WA
“There are three kinds of lies; lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Mark Twain
NAEP: National Assessment of Education ProgressPISA: Program for International Student AssessmentTIMSS: Trends in International Mathematics and Science StudyPIRLS: Progress in International Reading Literacy Study
“Sometimes rankings can make small gaps appear big and vice versa.” Tom Loveless, Brookings Institution 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education
Conclusion:1. Dubious Claims of Causality2. Misuse of National Rankings: Average Score Ranking3. The A+ Fallacy 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education
“Figures don‟t lie, but liars figure.” Mark Twain
BEHIND THE FACTS: PISA 2009 PISA rankings are determined by nations’ average scores. Some researchers suggest that average score comparisons are not useful. Even presuming that the scores have meaning, average student are not likely to be the leaders in the field of math and science. In the last PISA (2009), the U.S. had 25% of all high-scoring students in the world! See the chart above. The fact that one in four high-scoring students came from the U.S. and the remaining high-scores from the other 58 countries suggests that American schools are actually doing very well. Well-resourced school serving wealthy neighborhoods show excellent results. Poor resourced schools serving low-income communities of color do far worse. UNICEF studied poverty in 22 wealthy nations, the U.S. ranked 21st. The highest scoring countries have less diversity and less poverty.
“When it comes to student achievement andschool improvement, it‟s poverty not stupid!” Mel Riddile, Assoc. Dir. for High Schools NASSP 2010
USA F&R Meal Rate and PISAScore Schools with <10% 551 School with 10-24.9% 527 Schools with 25-49.9% 502 Schools with 50-74.9% 471 Schools with >75% 446 U.S. average 500 OECD average 493
Comparing Apples to Apples: Poverty Rates and PISAScoresCountry Poverty RatePISA ScoreUnited States <10% 551Finland 3.4% 536Netherlands 9.0% 508Belgium 6.7% 506Norway 3.6% 503Switzerland 6.8% 501France 7.3% 496Denmark 2.4% 495Czech Republic 7.2% 478
US K—20 Student Population 2012US Total Population313.1MK—12 Population (17.6%) 55.0M Public K—12 (90%) 49.6M Private K—12 (10%) 5.4MCollege/Grad School (7.3%) 23.0M Public College (85%) 19.6M Private College (15%) 3.4MUS population in K—20 (25%)
“You are entitled to your own opinion,but not your own facts.” Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Observations from PISA Results:• Shanghai, China topped the list with 556 (but it’s not a country). Only 35% of their students go onto high school and not all children are allowed to go to school.• Of all the nations participating in PISA, the U.S. has, by far, the largest number of students living in poverty—21.7%. The next closest countries have poverty rates75% of ours (United Kingdom and New Zealand).• U.S. students in school with 10% or less poverty are #1 in the world.• U.S. students in schools with 10-24% poverty are 3rd behind South Korea and Finland.• U.S. students in schools with 25-50% poverty are 10th in the world.• U.S. students in schools with 50% poverty are near the bottom.• The other surprises were Germany with less than half our poverty, scores belowthe U.S. as did France with less than a third our poverty and Sweden with a low of 3.6% poverty rate.
LESS-REPORTED FINDINGS: PISA 2009The best performing school systems manage to provide high-quality education for all children.Students from low SES backgrounds score a year behind affluent students.In schools where students are required to repeat grades, the test scores are lower and the achievement gap is larger.Tracking students (ability grouping) results in the gap becoming larger. The earlier the practice, the larger gap. Poor children are more frequently placed into the lower track.Schools that have autonomy over curriculum, finances and assessment score higher.Schools that compete for students (vouchers, charters, etc.) show no achievement score advantage.Private schools do no better once family wealth factors are considered.Students that attended pre-school score higher, even after more than 10 yrs.
ARE INTERNATIONAL COMPARISONS USEFUL? CAVEAT EMPTOR• Most countries define the job of students is learning and schools spend most of their time on academics. We add Driver’s Ed, Drug Prevention and Football.• Most developing countries are struggling with issues of universal access and gender parity. This is no longer a central issue in the US.• India concentrates its resources on a small number of elite students. Only now is it beginning to take on the challenge of educating “all” students.• Most Asian and European countries place responsibility for academics success on the individual student and rely on exams to sort students.• Politicians in Japan defer to professional educators matters such as curriculum. Our politicians have no “compunction” about imposing the latest fads on our schools including class size, charter schools, testing, merit pay, evaluation systems, etc. regardless of what educators say.
NOW WHAT? HOW SHOULD WE PARTICIPATE IN THE GLOBAL MARKET PLACEOF SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT IDEAS? 1. Move beyond the ―here’s a country that got it right syndrome‖. (A+ syndrome) 2. Learn from New Zealand’s market based education policies of 1990s. 3. The ―global market place‖ works both ways. Other countries see strengths in US system including China and Japan: Creativity and less testing, problem solving, and other skills central to the 21st century work place. The US is moving to more test-based initiatives (Yong Zhoa, Catching Up or Leading the Way, 2009). 4. Look for ideas and practices that have proven to be applicable across a variety of cultural setting.
“The challenge to our pundits is that wecontinually look for gold in othercountries, when all along we are sitting onAcres of Diamonds!” Anonymous
Observations from a SuperintendentAs the federal government (since 2002 ESEA underboth Democrats and Republicans) has becomeeven more top-down and prescriptive, local schoolbecome less autonomous and less like oursuccessful international counterparts.Finally, the push for privatizing public educationthrough charters, tuition tax credits, vouchers andthe likes (Market Driven Reforms) does not result inbetter test scores and has the effect of increasingsegregation, and the inequalities that lead to lowtest scores.
Final Thoughts on US Education 2012 and BeyondMaking education a national priority: A seriousinvestment in Teaching and Learning.Fostering a professional climate in schools:Attracted the best and brightest to the profession.The availability of “good” schools for all. Gettingserious about helping all students fulfill thefundamental right to a high-quality educationregardless of their Zip Code and SES.
“If we can ever get our values right, the„lessons learned‟ will take care ofthemselves.” Edward B. Fiske Former Educational Editor, New York Times and Education Week, March 7, 2012