The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the latest results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test of literacy, mathematics, and science given every three years to 15-year-olds in more than sixty countries worldwide. Shanghai, one of three education systems in China that participated in PISA, remained the top performer, while the United States’ scores have not significantly changed since the last time the report was released in 2009.
Connecticut, Florida, and Massachusetts participated for the first time as international benchmarking systems and received separate scores. Massachusetts’s average scores were higher than the U.S. and OECD average scores in all three subjects, and Connecticut’s average scores were higher than the OECD average scores in science and reading. In math, Connecticut students performed on average with their international peers, but above average nationally.
Statement from CEA President Sheila Cohen: Student success is more than a test score
We know the hard work that professional teachers do in the face of significant challenges of child poverty, student language issues, and the social and emotional challenges that children bring to the classroom every day. Teachers don’t need a test score to affirm their success, and a single test score will never truly measure the continued day-to-day successes that happen in classrooms across Connecticut and the lives of children that are changed by these dedicated professionals.
Examining the new PISA scores is complex. The test results reflect the performance of 15-year- olds who began their journey in schools in 2002, with programs in place well before the new wave of education reform.
Therefore, before making judgments, we must all look at what is measurably different from the nation’s past record, and assess to what degree the entire curriculum taught in American schools is linked to the limited subjects tested by PISA. And that’s just for starters.
It’s also important to remember that some of the nations that do well, like Finland, do not share the U.S.’s national fixation with testing. And some others that had gone down the path of testing, like China, reversed their course more than a decade ago.
U.S. officials don’t have to keep taking students’ academic temperature to know what they have to do to bolster student achievement: give teachers’ professional autonomy, provide necessary resources, and meet the learning needs of every child.
Statement from NEA President Dennis Van Roekel: We must acknowledge that the effects of poverty are pervasive
“The United States’ standings haven’t improved dramatically because we as a nation haven’t addressed the main cause of our mediocre PISA performance – the effects of poverty on students.
“Our students from well-to-do families have consistently done well on the PISA assessments. For students who live in poverty, however, it’s a different story. Socioeconomic factors influence students’ performance in the United States more than they do in all but few of the other PISA countries.
“It’s time for our nation to face up to that challenge, and we must start by acknowledging that the effects of poverty are pervasive. Children can’t learn in school if they lack nutritious food, a safe place to sleep or access to health care, and our society must address those needs.
“What else do the high-performing nations do differently? They invest in early childhood education. They fully fund all of their schools. They make the teaching profession attractive and they support their teachers. They value the collaboration between parents, educators, administrators, communities and elected officials.”