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Different international test, similar results

14 April 2014

I’ve been meaning to post on PISA results for a while since the first group was released in 2013. This month PISA released results of a test that promised to evaluate creativity and problem-solving, often seen as hard to assess and as a strength of U. S. culture relative to the world. So how did U. S. students perform? Decidedly average.

Again, there are now columns and papers and, well, blog posts written about how and why U. S. students are falling behind. This alarmism is not restricted to the U. S.: The BBC describes the results as a “league table” (for Americans, the analogy would be “NFL standings”) and bemoans the falling ranking of its home nation (26th place, 10 ahead of the Yanks). This one from the L. A. Times suggests the implementation of the Common Core standards will improve things.

My state, Florida, has earned some notoriety for bringing the nation’s average PISA scores down (even though the Miami Herald slant on the results was that Florida students are “happy” in spite their poor performance). If Florida were a country, its performance on the general PISA test would put it between Slovakia and Israel, while Massachusetts would be equal with Germany, between Canada and Austria. Keep in mind that the 15-year-olds taking this test have “benefited” from reforms in Florida put in place before they were in kindergarten: the Sunshine State Standards, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, and increasing accountability for students, teachers, and schools for test performance. Diane Ravitch had a good time snookering Florida on this one: See “Lesson 2” of her blog post.

I’ve written already here about international test scores and the gap of U. S. students, and I don’t really have much to add to that. I think the unit plan I developed for Teachers for Global Classrooms encourages the collaboration and problem-solving that businesses and PISA seem to be looking for. I updated that page and include some comments from the students’ post-project reflection piece.

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