International PISA test results can help guide U.S. schools, experts say
Much debate has focused on the role of international rankings and assessments in U.S. education. Experts say U.S. education leaders can use data about top performing countries to inform U.S. education practice.
One such test is the PISA, an international study launched in 1997 that assesses 15-year-olds in reading, math, and science every three years in an effort to evaluate worldwide education systems. PISA results will be made public on International PISA Day, which takes place on Dec. 3.
The test reveals the “importance of deeper learning skills such as critical thinking and problem solving,” said Robert Rothman, a senior fellow with the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) during a PISA preview webinar on Nov. 21.
(Next page: What’s important about the PISA, and how to interpret results)
RAND Corporation research reveals that “most state tests in place now don’t measure these deeper competencies,” Rothman added. “The vast majority of test questions measured very low-level knowledge and skills. People look to tests like PISA to see how their students do with higher-level abilities that are more desired by colleges and workplaces.”
Two factors make PISA results especially important, said Bob Wise, AEE president. First, the test “brings out how well students apply knowledge to a real-world problem.” Second, PISA is equally important to students, teachers, principals, and policymakers, because it “provides a backdrop of very rich data into what students did and why they did it. It’s not just about measuring a student’s ability—it’s about looking at the practices of high-achieving countries.”
And while many people will focus on how the U.S. ranks compared to other countries, the focus should in fact be on the nation’s PISA test results, and using those results to inform school leadership and teaching, Wise said.
“My guess is the rankings for the U.S. won’t change appreciably. But what will change, and what we will benefit from, is the data behind the rankings—what goes on behind the rankings, and what the implications are for policymakers,” he said. “PISA is way more than the rankings.”
The first-ever PISA day is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and OECD, among others. The event begins at 10 a.m. and will stream live online.
PISA results will be revealed and discussed in general terms and as they relate to the U.S. Then, Wise said, discussion moves into three hours of “extensive analysis” of what the PISA results–not the rankings–mean for Common Core implementation, college- and career-ready standards, and what data can tell administrators and educators about effective teaching practice in the U.S.
Those who wish to attend can register at pisaday.org.