‘PISA 2009 Results’ Released Today: US Hovers at the Mean

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

The PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2009 survey results were released today by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Click here for the official press release. Click here for the “PISA 2009 Results: Executive Summary.” A separate document, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Lessons from PISA for the United States, was also released by the OECD.

Pisa 2009 Results focuses on reading as well as math and science. The report consists of six separate volumes. Volume VI, Students on Line: Reading and Using Digital Information, will be published in June 2011. It “explores students’ use of information technologies to learn.”

The first five volumes are available now via subscription or purchase:

Volume I, What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science, compares the knowledge and skills of students across countries.
Volume II, Overcoming Social Background: Equity in Learning Opportunities and Outcomes, looks at how successful education systems moderate the impact of social background and immigrant status on student and school performance.
Volume III, Learning to Learn: Student Engagement, Strategies and Practices, examines 15-year-olds’ motivation, their engagement with reading and their use of effective learning strategies.
Volume IV, What Makes a School Successful? Resources, Policies and Practices, examines how human, financial and material resources, and education policies and practices shape learning outcomes.
Volume V, Learning Trends: Changes in Student Performance Since 2000, looks at the progress countries have made in raising student performance and improving equity in the distribution of learning opportunities.

The mean score is 494, and “Out of 34 countries, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math” (Christine Armario, AP, 12.7.10). The US hovered around the mean:

Korea and Finland are the highest performing OECD countries, with mean scores of 539 and 536 points, respectively. However, the partner economy Shanghai-China outperforms them by a significant margin, with a mean score of 556. Top-performing countries or economies in reading literacy include Hong Kong-China (with a mean score of 533), Singapore (526), Canada (524), New Zealand (521), Japan (520) and Australia (515). The Netherlands (508), Belgium (506), Norway (503), Estonia (501), Switzerland (501), Poland (500), Iceland (500) and Liechtenstein (499) also perform above the OECD mean score of 494, while the United States, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, France, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Portugal, and partner economy Chinese Taipei have scores close to the OECD mean. (Executive Summary, 6)

These results were highlighted in the press release:

  • Girls read better than boys in every country, by an average of 39 points, the equivalent to one year of schooling. The gender gap has not improved in any country since 2000, and widened in France, Israel, Korea, Portugal and Sweden. This is mirrored in a decline of boy’s enjoyment of reading and their engagement with reading in their leisure time.
  • The best school systems were the most equitable – students do well regardless of their socio-economic background. But schools that select students based on ability early show the greatest differences in performance by socio-economic background.
  • High performing school systems tend to prioritise teacher pay over smaller class sizes.
  • Countries where students repeat grades more often tend to have worse results overall, with the widest gaps between children from poor and better-off families. Making students repeat years is most common in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain.
  • High performing systems allow schools to design curricula and establish assessment policies but don’t necessarily allow competition for students.
  • Schools with good discipline and better student-teacher relations achieve better reading results.
  • Public and private schools achieve similar results, after taking account of their home backgrounds.
  • Combining local autonomy and effective accountability seems to produce the best results.
  • The percentage of students who said they read for pleasure dropped from 69% in 2000 to 64% in 2009.

Webcite alternative for the Armario article.

One Response

  1. Here’s a significant quote.

    “With the exception of Turkey, Slovenia, Israel and the United States, where socio-economically disadvantaged schools also tend to be deprived in terms of basic resources, such as larger student-staff ratios, OECD countries place at least an equal, if not a larger, number of teachers into socio-economically disadvantaged schools as they do in advantaged schools.”

    Disadvantaged schools in the United States tend to be deprived of basic resources much more than other countries EXCEPT for Slovenia, Turkey, and, oddly enough, Israel.

    This should be a scandal worthy of first-page headlines across the nation.

    It’s compounded by the fact, according to the report, that disadvantaged schools have more difficulty in recruiting the best graduates as teachers.

    If we can invest hundreds of billions in our “national defense” as embodied by advanced weapons systems, why cannot we invest a fraction of that in our real national defense: a great education for every single child? Why give excellent public educations mostly to children whose parents could afford a private education?

    During the 80s, I felt that our nation was being hijacked by greed. It might simply have been my coming to New York City in the 60s and having a different world view because of it. Today, I feel that I’m seeing the fallout from the 80s. Everyone talks a great deal about education, but no one is really doing anything about it.

    Oh, there’s the Race to the Top and the Investing in Innovation Fund. The former is biased toward siphoning resources away from disadvantaged schools into charter schools and toward more top-down control through even more emphasis on high-stakes testing.

    The latter, directed mostly at school districts, is heavily biased toward well-off and larger districts who have the resources available to prepare a first-class response. Other, more deserving, entities will fail because their proposals are not going to be as well designed to game the grant system in Washington.

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