"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, December 09, 2013

OECD Pimping for Common Core Testing Delivery System

PISA chief, Andrew Schleicher was on the PBS News Hour last week to talk about what might be learned from high scorers on the world's most watched international testing derby.  He pointed to some interventions that seem to have proved successful that focused on improving teacher quality and more equitable educational opportunities as having particular promise.  When Jeffrey Brown asked about the U. S., Schleicher departed from his empirical riff, however, and focused on the untried and unproven Common Core testing delivery system as the way to American success in the international test-off.

Is there a good reason Schleicher could be pumping and pimping for Pearson's new goldmine, the Common Core?  From the Pearson site:
Published: 10/09/2012 
Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, today announces that it has been chosen by the OECD to develop the frameworks for the OECD’s landmark PISA educational assessment in 2015. 
The PISA assessment is widely recognised as the benchmark for measuring the improvement of education systems worldwide. 74 countries/economies participated in the 2009 test. 
In 2015, PISA’s main focus will be testing the scientific literacy of students around the world. The test will feature significant new elements: 
  A new Collaborative Problem Solving assessment will be added, in recognition of the ways young people will have to learn and work throughout their lives. Pearson will develop this new domain for PISA
  Greater use of computer-based testing
Pearson will also provide advice to the PISA study on the benefits, opportunities and implications of implementing computer adaptive testing for PISA in future. . . .

What do they say--small world? The PBS text is below.

The PISA test is coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD.
Andreas Schleicher serves as deputy director for education and skills there. He helped develop and runs the test, and joins us now.
And welcome to you.
ANDREAS SCHLEICHER, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development: Thank you very much.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, explain to us first, what is the role and importance of these tests? What do they actually tell us?
ANDREAS SCHLEICHER: Well, they allow us to look at what is possible in education.
They show us what the world's leading education systems -- shows possible in terms of student achievement, in terms of equity in educational opportunities, the very important mirror in which we can look at ourselves in the light of what other countries show is possible, really.
JEFFREY BROWN: So when we look at ourselves here in the U.S. the headline once again was average. Is that the -- even as some countries have moved ahead.
JEFFREY BROWN: Is that the takeaway that you would put for the U.S.?
ANDREAS SCHLEICHER: Well, yes, I think the U.S. is an average performer.
But we have seen actually a lot of movement around the world, Shanghai, Singapore moving from good to great, in Europe, Poland, Germany actually addressing many of the same challenges the U.S. faces in terms of creating a more equitable distribution of learning opportunities. There a lot of lessons in there, not just sort of seeing where you are, but also how things can become better.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, one of the criticisms -- you mentioned Shanghai, Singapore. How do you compare them, Shanghai, a city, to the United States, where there are so many huge differences?
ANDREAS SCHLEICHER: Absolutely. That is a very fair point.
It would be more appropriate to compare, for example, Shanghai, the top-performing province in China, with Massachusetts, the top-performing state in the U.S. But, still, you have an average -- a gap of two-and-a-half school years Shanghai leading Massachusetts, so it is relevant for us to look to those places, how they actually deliver those kind of outcomes.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, give us some examples. What do you see some countries doing well that we are not doing here?
ANDREAS SCHLEICHER: Well, A., particularly in East Asia, they give a great value to education. They attract great people into the teaching profession.
They attract the most talented teachers into the most challenging classrooms, something the U.S. has great difficulties with. I mean, every student believes that they are the owners of their success, that investment in learning, effort is going to make a difference, not talent.
I think there are a lot of lessons, I think, all over the world can learn from East Asia. But you can also see high-performing systems in Europe, or you look to your northern neighbor, Canada, very impressive results in some of the provinces there.
JEFFREY BROWN: And you see them taking actions that have -- you have seen the shift from the last time of the results?
ANDREAS SCHLEICHER: Yes, absolutely.
You know, I mean, Shanghai did really well last time, but they are doing a lot better now. It is not only the relative position that we have seen, but also the pace of change. Also, at the bottom of the list, you can see a country like Brazil rising from the bottom, Turkey, Mexico. Actually, there is a lot of improvement. Out of 65 countries, 40 have seen some improvement in one of the three subjects.
JEFFREY BROWN: The U.S. has a higher proportion of lower-income students than many of these countries. The U.S. has a more diverse population, including immigrant groups, than many of these countries.
ANDREAS SCHLEICHER: Actually, these are common beliefs. On the income, for example, that is not actually right.
In terms of child poverty, the U.S. is around the average. Among the OECD countries, it has a more diverse population. But even if you account for all of those factors, you know, to take Vietnam, a country that is actually where every child lives in poverty, and still its results come out better than the OECD average.
So poverty is a challenge, but you can actually see some countries very good at moderating inequalities, very good at helping disadvantaged students actually to excel. You can see that in Asia and Singapore and Japan. You can see that in Northern Europe, where you have children coming out of poverty, but the education system then assures that those children get the best educational opportunities.
JEFFREY BROWN: These numbers are inevitably pounced upon by advocates of all kind, right?
Once we know the results of the tests, can we therefore say policy X is the right way to go, policy Y for any particular country? And I am thinking specifically of the U.S. here. We have these -- have all kinds of discussions and debates on the table.
ANDREAS SCHLEICHER: It is always hard to discern to cause and effect when you have a study like this.
And you can't copy and paste an education system. But I do think what the comparisons allow you, they allow you to study the drivers of success. What have those countries actually done that have moved upwards and have realized good results?
And then to think about how you can configure those drivers in your own context. Actually, a country that is doing that really well is Singapore. If you go to Singapore, you find nothing that you haven't seen somewhere else, but they made it really work coherently over time, coherently across the whole system. They are very, very good at policy implementation.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, but you mentioned Singapore again. And people say Singapore. OK, that is an interesting country. It's a smaller country. It has a much more regime -- much stricter regime than -- and it is a different form of government in a way than the U.S.
ANDREAS SCHLEICHER: Let me give you another example.
ANDREAS SCHLEICHER: In the year 2000, my own country, Germany, came out quite poorly on PISA, both in terms of average performance and in terms of the achievement gap.
But the country has really worked hard on those kind of issues, giving immigrant students better chances in school, investing into the teaching of lower-income students. And the performance gap between the richer and the less wealthier children has halved in the period of nine years. So, actually, these are challenges, but, actually, there are very good examples, Poland, another middle-income country that has seen dramatic improvements on its learning outcomes...
JEFFREY BROWN: So, just in our last 30 seconds, your advice is, use the -- get past the headlines...
JEFFREY BROWN: ... and try to see what can work in a given country?
The world is a fantastic laboratory. We can actually see different ideas playing out in different ways, and we can actually -- we don't have to copy every mistake that is being made. But we can look at how have ideas like choice, like competition, like standards, how they have been played out?
And the U.S., I think, has made -- is one great example. If you look at the Common Core standards that are now being implemented by states, this is exactly an idea like this, internationally benchmarked. They are actually modeled on the top-performing education systems. If they are actually done in classrooms, they are going to get the U.S. pretty much upwards.
Well, that is an ongoing example that we will be watching over time.
Andreas Schleicher of the OECD, thank you very much.

ANDREAS SCHLEICHER: Thank you very much.

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