Tuesday, October 11, 2011

PISA, Poverty and Policy

Posted on Mon, Oct. 10, 2011
In global ranking of students, N.J. and Pa. fare better than nation
By Dan Hardy, Inquirer Staff Writer
When math and reading test results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) were released late last year, they led to much hand-wringing about the United States' performance.

Here’s a link to more info on this study: http://educationnext.org/are-u-s-students-ready-to-compete/
Graph: Class of 2011 Math Performance in Global Perspective:

Graph: Class of 2011 Reading Performance in Global Perspective:

FYI - Top scoring countries like Korea, Singapore and Finland are not pushing vouchers, charter schools and punitive testing.

PISA Director Urges U.S. to Raise Teachers’ Status

New York Times By SAM DILLON, Published: March 16, 2011
To improve its public schools, the United States should raise the status of the teaching profession by recruiting more qualified candidates, training them better and paying them more, according to a new report on comparative educational systems.
Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the international achievement test known by its acronym Pisa, says in his report that top-scoring countries like Korea, Singapore and Finland recruit only high-performing college graduates for teaching positions, support them with mentoring and other help in the classroom, and take steps to raise respect for the profession.
Here's a link to the actual report: 

Here’s a posting that addresses Shanghai’s top score on the PISA exam; they don’t include the 3 to 4 million poor kids in the testing.  That would be like only reporting Masterman and Central as Philadelphia’s test results.

Despite recent test scores, China is not 'eating our lunch'

In Shanghai, as in most other Chinese cities, the rural migrant workers that are the true urban working poor (totaling about 150 million in the country), are not allowed to send their kids to public high schools in the city. This is engineered by the discriminatory hukou or household registration system, which classifies them as "outsiders." Those teenagers will have to go back home to continue education, or drop out of school altogether.
In other words, the city has 3 to 4 million working poor, but its high-school system conveniently does not need to provide for the kids of that segment. In essence, the poor kids are purged from Shanghai's sample of 5,100 students taking the tests

PISA, Poverty and Policy
See Mel Riddle’s analysis of the PISA results, PISA its poverty not stupid".  A more accurate assessment of the performance of U.S. students would be obtained by comparing the scores of American schools with comparable poverty rates to those of other countries.
Schools in the United States with less than a 10% poverty rate had a PISA score of 551.  When compared to the ten countries with similar poverty numbers, that score ranked first. 
In the next category (poverty rates of 10-24.9%) the U.S. average of 527 placed first out of the ten comparable nations. 

What Works: Poverty - Schools Cannot Ignore Its Impact and Improve
The Principal Difference Blog by Mel Riddle

While educators cannot cure poverty, we can recommend strategies that will create a level playing field so that under-resourced students are provided the resources they need to bring them up to par with their middle class counterparts. 
1. Early Childhood Education - If we know that children in poverty will arrive at school two to three years behind, why do we wait for the train wreck? "The bipartisan New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce has recommended that public education begin at age 3 for American students. And studies show that the best early childhood programs are staffed by teachers with college degrees and early education certification, offer developmentally appropriate education, include a focus on language development and comprehensive services such as meals and health and developmental screenings and encourage parental involvement." 
2. Best Teachers and Principals - Provide incentives for teachers and principals to work in under-resourced schools. The current strategy of "blame and punish" only serves to drive out the most qualified.
3. Funding - Finally, we must acknowledge that it simply costs more to educate some students. We already admit that it costs more to educate special needs and language-learners, why not poor students?
4. Literacy - Reading and writing skills are the great equalizers helping under-resourced students achieve at middle class levels. We know that poor children lack literacy skills, and, therefore, we must provide direct, explicit literacy instruction beginning the day they first arrive at school and every day thereafter.
5. Time - In order to level the playing field, we must provide under-resourced students more time to learn. It's not about ability. These students don't lack ability. They lack resources and supports. Time is the key. If we hold learning time constant, student achievement looks like a bell curve. We need to provide longer school years, after school tutoring and tiered interventions for all students but particularly for children living in poverty.

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