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PISA

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PISA circus time again

graphYes, it’s that time again, when the OECD releases the PISA test results and Education Ministers everywhere frantically start to spin the information to justify whatever plans they already had. Statisticians in government departments everywhere lurch across desks in darkened rooms, poring over the data, eagerly cherry picking the bits that serve their Minister’s purpose. Such fun!

Then there are those dedicated researchers who put out articles quick-smart explaining why PISA is flawed and unreliable. They explain in great detail the ins and outs of data collection and test setting and statistical analysis and, despite our best efforts, maybe one in a thousand of us can follow what they are saying. But we read anyway and nod sagely. Because there are graphs and there is data, so it must be good stuff.

The media, of course, enter into some kind of Nirvana, gleefully whipping up a hoohah about countries “slipping down” or “surging up” the tables. Heaven forbid a country has the temerity to stay in the same place – how’s a journo meant to get a headline out of that kind of carry on?

Of course, in all of this madness, we could take the Yong Zhao route and denounce PISA altogether – say no to the sausage factory. But that doesn’t sell papers or make for rousing Ministerial pronouncements, or even attract blog readers, so, yeah nah.

Instead, yet again, we will be treated to the PISA circus, like it or not, so please remember to engage your critical thinking skills.

~ Dianne

When PISA meets politics – a lesson from New Zealand

by Martin Thrupp,first published in The Conversation

conversation

“PISA shock” is the term that has been coined for the sense of political crisis and knee-jerk policy reaction that typically occurs when a country drops in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s international education rankings.

Almost 100 education experts, including several of us from New Zealand, recently sent an open letter to the OECD’s chief education spokesperson, Andreas Schleicher, pointing out that the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings have become more of a problem than a solution.

In many ways the concern of New Zealand educators is also around the wider influence of the OECD education programme on New Zealand educational politics and policy – perhaps as much “OECD hangover” as “PISA shock”.

New Zealand’s government led by prime minister John Key often draws on the authority of the OECD to endorse its policy direction, using both PISA findings and the related arguments of Schleicher. New Zealand’s minister of education Hekia Parata regularly quotes Schleicher, saying, “Without data, you are just another person with an opinion.”

Data problems

But Schleicher is not close enough to the New Zealand context to correct any misuse of the OECD’s results by the Key government, and this causes problems. One example has involved the impact of poverty on student achievement.

Shortly after the latest PISA results came out in 2013, Parata started to say that New Zealand’s PISA results showed that socio-economic status accounted for only 18% of student achievement. This was surprising, to say the least, when a powerful relationship between social class and student achievement has been a theme of international research in the sociology of education for more than 50 years.

Further investigation revealed that the 18% claim was based only on PISA’s narrow definition of family socio-economic influence. Using PISA’s wider criteria that include neighbourhood and school socio-economic factors, about 78% of New Zealand’s latest results became explained by socio-economic conditions. But it is worth noting that some academics, such as Harvey Goldstein at Bristol, point out that PISA is not a long-term study, and so can’t estimate factors like this.

But downplaying the impact of poverty in order to emphasise the responsibility of teachers to raise achievement has been a regular strategy of the Key government. And when faced with the corrected figure by opposition parties in parliament in January, the prime minister still fell back on the authority of Schleicher to argue for the greater importance of teachers and schools.

Adding insult to injury, Schleicher himself started arguing that “poverty isn’t destiny” and arrived in New Zealand for the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in March stressing the power of high expectations in the face of social contexts.

Some of the points Schleicher has been making might be useful if the arguments were employed carefully. Unfortunately, in the national politics of New Zealand – and probably in many other countries – any such subtleties are quickly lost. Instead the OECD/Schleicher arguments become fertile ground for the politics of blaming teachers for the underperformance of students from poor backgrounds.

Political positioning

The OECD hangover in New Zealand goes far beyond PISA. In January, the Key government’s latest school policy proposal called “Investing in Educational Success” was announced. This is intended to introduce a number of new teaching and leadership roles into New Zealand’s schools, providing extra payments for carrying out the required roles as part of a NZ$359m (£184.4m) investment plan.

By February, a four-minute video of Schleicher endorsing the policy had appeared on Parata’s National Party website. This was concerning as although the OECD tries to be non-partisan, here was Schleicher, featuring on a party-political website and endorsing the governing coalition’s announcement of new education spending in an election year.

Watching the highly scripted video clip it also becomes apparent that Schleicher was willing to endorse the new policy without entering into the controversies it would cause in New Zealand.

He leaves out how the policy was announced by the Key government after a cabinet decision, without prior consultation and only subsequent input into the detail rather than the thrust of the policy. Not mentioned are worrying shifts in the power relations between the New Zealand government and teachers and between New Zealand teachers themselves that are likely to be caused by the policy.

Also not mentioned is the involvement and reinforcement of other New Zealand education policies that have been causing concern such as the new National Standards for primary schools, as well as many practical considerations. Instead, Schleicher discusses the policy only in an abstract, non-contextualised way. As the Quality Public Education Coalition pressure group said, his endorsement evokes the “best of all worlds”.

With Schleicher’s endorsement of the policy there can be no claim of misinterpretation by the Key government. It is more that Schleicher is not being careful enough about how the OECD’s support would be used in a local setting.

Our open letter concluded by suggesting the OECD had become the “global arbiter of the means and ends of education around the world”. In New Zealand, the OECD risks becoming known as a stick to beat educators with. Its reputation is unlikely to improve until it starts genuinely listening and acting on local concerns.

by Martin Thrupp, first published in The Conversation

PISA: Harvey Goldstein tells Andreas Schleicher he missed the point

Over 100 academics last week wrote to Andreas Schleicher at the OECD asking that PISA tests be halted.  The Guardian, along with many others, ran articles on this – and the Guardian’s article elicited a response from Schleicher, in which he says

Andreas Schleicher“There is nothing that suggests that Pisa, or other educational comparisons, have caused a “shift to short-term fixes” in education policy. On the contrary, by opening up a perspective to a wider range of policy options that arise from international comparisons, Pisa has provided many opportunities for more strategic policy design. It has also created important opportunities for policy-makers and other stakeholders to collaborate across borders. The annual International Summit of the Teaching Profession, where ministers meet with union leaders to discuss ways to raise the status of the teaching profession, is an example. Not least, while it is undoubtedly true that some reforms take time to bear fruit, a number of countries have in fact shown that rapid progress can be made in the short term, eg Poland, Germany and others making observable steady progress every three years…”

A Response

Harvey Goldstein responded to that letter and, as The Guardian didn’t print it, he has given me permission to share it here:

To: Editor, The Guardian
Sir
Andreas Schleicher (letters May 8) claims that, as a result of educational policy changes induced by PISA comparisons, ” a number of countries have in fact shown that rapid progress can be made in the short term”. What he means, of course, is that by concentrating efforts on performing well on the PISA tests these countries have managed to climb up the PISA rankings. This is, however, precisely the point made in the letter to him from a number of academics, including myself, to which he is responding. What we were objecting to was the way in which the relentless cycle of global testing impoverishes educational systems by promoting educational uniformity via concentration on performing well on globally standardised tests.

In fact, as Dr Schleicher well knows but refuses to acknowledge, PISA results in themselves are unable to tell us why particular countries do well or badly, and the results are typically interpreted by policymakers in order to justify their own existing predilections for curriculum reform. As we suggested in our letter, this is a good time for OECD to reflect on its PISA (and similar) programmes by suspending the next round of testing and instituting a global debate that involves all stakeholders.

Sincerely

Harvey Goldstein

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Read more on PISA here:

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/category/pisa-programme-for-international-student-assessment-data/

http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/news/my-view-of-the-pisa-scores-diane-ravitchs-blog/

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2013/dec/03/pisa-methodology-education-oecd-student-performance

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6344672

 

Academics Worldwide call for the end to PISA tests

We are deeply concerned that measuring a great diversity of educational traditions and cultures using a single, narrow, biased yardstick could, in the end, do irreparable harm to our schools and our students.

Dear Dr Schleicher,

We write to you in your capacity as OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) director of the Programme of International Student Assessment (Pisa). Now in its 13th year, Pisa is known around the world as an instrument to rank OECD and non-OECD countries (60-plus at last count) according to a measure of academic achievement of 15-year-old students in mathematics, science, and reading. Administered every three years, Pisa results are anxiously awaited by governments, education ministers, and the editorial boards of newspapers, and are cited authoritatively in countless policy reports. They have begun to deeply influence educational practices in many countries. As a result of Pisa, countries are overhauling their education systems in the hopes of improving their rankings. Lack of progress on Pisa has led to declarations of crisis and “Pisa shock” in many countries, followed by calls for resignations, and far-reaching reforms according to Pisa precepts.

We are frankly concerned about the negative consequences of the Pisa rankings. These are some of our concerns:

While standardised testing has been used in many nations for decades (despite serious reservations about its validity and reliability), Pisa has contributed to an escalation in such testing and a dramatically increased reliance on quantitative measures. For example, in the US, Pisa has been invoked as a major justification for the recent “Race to the Top” programme, which has increased the use of standardised testing for student-, teacher-, and administrator evaluations, which rank and label students, as well as teachers and administrators according to the results of tests widely known to be imperfect (see, for example, Finland’s unexplained decline from the top of the Pisa table).

In education policy, Pisa, with its three-year assessment cycle, has caused a shift of attention to short-term fixes designed to help a country quickly climb the rankings, despite research showing that enduring changes in education practice take decades, not a few years, to come to fruition. For example, we know that the status of teachers and the prestige of teaching as a profession have a strong influence on the quality of instruction, but that status varies strongly across cultures and is not easily influenced by short-term policy.

By emphasising a narrow range of measurable aspects of education, Pisa takes attention away from the less measurable or immeasurable educational objectives like physical, moral, civic and artistic development, thereby dangerously narrowing our collective imagination regarding what education is and ought to be about.

As an organisation of economic development, OECD is naturally biased in favour of the economic role of public [state] schools. But preparing young men and women for gainful employment is not the only, and not even the main goal of public education, which has to prepare students for participation in democratic self-government, moral action and a life of personal development, growth and wellbeing.

Unlike United Nations (UN) organisations such as UNESCO or UNICEF that have clear and legitimate mandates to improve education and the lives of children around the world, OECD has no such mandate. Nor are there, at present, mechanisms of effective democratic participation in its education decision-making process.

To carry out Pisa and a host of follow-up services, OECD has embraced “public-private partnerships” and entered into alliances with multi-national for-profit companies, which stand to gain financially from any deficits—real or perceived—unearthed by Pisa. Some of these companies provide educational services to American schools and school districts on a massive, for-profit basis, while also pursuing plans to develop for-profit elementary education in Africa, where OECD is now planning to introduce the Pisa programme.

Finally, and most importantly: the new Pisa regime, with its continuous cycle of global testing, harms our children and impoverishes our classrooms, as it inevitably involves more and longer batteries of multiple-choice testing, more scripted “vendor”-made lessons, and less autonomy for teachers. In this way Pisa has further increased the already high stress level in schools, which endangers the wellbeing of students and teachers.

These developments are in overt conflict with widely accepted principles of good educational and democratic practice:

No reform of any consequence should be based on a single narrow measure of quality.

No reform of any consequence should ignore the important role of non-educational factors, among which a nation’s socio-economic inequality is paramount. In many countries, including the US, inequality has dramatically increased over the past 15 years, explaining the widening educational gap between rich and poor which education reforms, no matter how sophisticated, are unlikely to redress.

An organisation like OECD, as any organisation that deeply affects the life of our communities, should be open to democratic accountability by members of those communities.

We are writing not only to point out deficits and problems. We would also like to offer constructive ideas and suggestions that may help to alleviate the above mentioned concerns. While in no way complete, they illustrate how learning could be improved without the above mentioned negative effects:

1 Develop alternatives to league tables: explore more meaningful and less easily sensationalised ways of reporting assessment outcomes. For example, comparing developing countries, where 15-year-olds are regularly drafted into child labour, with first-world countries makes neither educational nor political sense and opens OECD up for charges of educational colonialism.

2 Make room for participation by the full range of relevant constituents and scholarship: to date, the groups with greatest influence on what and how international learning is assessed are psychometricians, statisticians, and economists. They certainly deserve a seat at the table, but so do many other groups: parents, educators, administrators, community leaders, students, as well as scholars from disciplines like anthropology, sociology, history, philosophy, linguistics, as well as the arts and humanities. What and how we assess the education of 15-year-old students should be subject to discussions involving all these groups at local, national, and international levels.

3 Include national and international organisations in the formulation of assessment methods and standards whose mission goes beyond the economic aspect of public education and which are concerned with the health, human development, wellbeing and happiness of students and teachers. This would include the above mentioned United Nations organisations, as well as teacher, parent, and administrator associations, to name a few.

4 Publish the direct and indirect costs of administering Pisa so that taxpayers in member countries can gauge alternative uses of the millions of dollars spent on these tests and determine if they want to continue their participation in it.

5 Welcome oversight by independent international monitoring teams which can observe the administration of Pisa from the conception to the execution, so that questions about test format and statistical and scoring procedures can be weighed fairly against charges of bias or unfair comparisons.

6 Provide detailed accounts regarding the role of private, for-profit companies in the preparation, execution, and follow-up to the tri-annual Pisa assessments to avoid the appearance or reality of conflicts of interest.

7 Slow down the testing juggernaut. To gain time to discuss the issues mentioned here at local, national, and international levels, consider skipping the next Pisa cycle. This would give time to incorporate the collective learning that will result from the suggested deliberations in a new and improved assessment model.

We assume that OECD’s Pisa experts are motivated by a sincere desire to improve education. But we fail to understand how your organisation has become the global arbiter of the means and ends of education around the world. OECD’s narrow focus on standardised testing risks turning learning into drudgery and killing the joy of learning. As Pisa has led many governments into an international competition for higher test scores, OECD has assumed the power to shape education policy around the world, with no debate about the necessity or limitations of OECD’s goals. We are deeply concerned that measuring a great diversity of educational traditions and cultures using a single, narrow, biased yardstick could, in the end, do irreparable harm to our schools and our students.

Sincerely,

Andrews, Paul Professor of Mathematics Education, Stockholm University

Atkinson, Lori New York State Allies for Public Education

Ball, Stephen J Karl Mannheim Professor of Sociology of Education, Institute of Education, University of London

Barber, Melissa Parents Against High Stakes Testing

Beckett, Lori Winifred Mercier Professor of Teacher Education, Leeds Metropolitan University

Berardi, Jillaine Linden Avenue Middle School, Assistant Principal

Berliner, David Regents Professor of Education at Arizona State University

Bloom, Elizabeth EdD Associate Professor of Education, Hartwick College

Boudet, Danielle Oneonta Area for Public Education

Boland, Neil Senior lecturer, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand

Burris, Carol Principal and former Teacher of the Year

Cauthen, Nancy PhD Change the Stakes, NYS Allies for Public Education

Cerrone, Chris Testing Hurts Kids; NYS Allies for Public Education

Ciaran, Sugrue Professor, Head of School, School of Education, University College Dublin

Deutermann, Jeanette Founder Long Island Opt Out, Co-founder NYS Allies for Public Education

Devine, Nesta Associate Professor, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

Dodge, Arnie Chair, Department of Educational Leadership, Long Island University

Dodge, Judith Author, Educational Consultant

Farley, Tim Principal, Ichabod Crane School; New York State Allies for Public Education

Fellicello, Stacia Principal, Chambers Elementary School

Fleming, Mary Lecturer, School of Education, National University of Ireland, Galway

Fransson, Göran Associate Professor of Education, University of Gävle, Sweden

Giroux, Henry Professor of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University

Glass, Gene Senior Researcher, National Education Policy Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Glynn, Kevin Educator, co-founder of Lace to the Top

Goldstein, Harvey Professor of Social Statistics, University of Bristol

Gorlewski, David Director, Educational Leadership Doctoral Program, D’Youville College

Gorlewski, Julie PhD, Assistant Professor, State University of New York at New Paltz

Gowie, Cheryl Professor of Education, Siena College

Greene, Kiersten Assistant Professor of Literacy, State University of New York at New Paltz

Haimson, Leonie Parent Advocate and Director of “Class Size Matters”

Heinz, Manuela Director of Teaching Practice, School of Education, National University of Ireland Galway

Hughes, Michelle Principal, High Meadows Independent School

Jury, Mark Chair, Education Department, Siena College

Kahn, Hudson Valley Against Common Core

Kayden, Michelle Linden Avenue Middle School Red Hook, New York

Kempf, Arlo Program Coordinator of School and Society, OISE, University of Toronto

Kilfoyle, Marla NBCT, General Manager of BATs

Labaree, David Professor of Education, Stanford University

Leonardatos, Harry Principal, high school, Clarkstown, New York

MacBeath, John Professor Emeritus, Director of Leadership for Learning, University of Cambridge

McLaren, Peter Distinguished Professor, Chapman University

McNair, Jessica Co-founder Opt-Out CNY, parent member NYS Allies for Public Education

Meyer, Heinz-Dieter Associate Professor, Education Governance & Policy, State University of New York (Albany)

Meyer, Tom Associate Professor of Secondary Education, State University of New York at New Paltz

Millham, Rosemary PhD Science Coordinator, Master Teacher Campus Director, SUNY New Paltz

Millham, Rosemary Science Coordinator/Assistant Professor, Master Teacher Campus Director, State University of New York, New Paltz

Oliveira Andreotti Vanessa Canada Research Chair in Race, Inequality, and Global Change, University of British Columbia

Sperry, Carol Emerita, Millersville University, Pennsylvania

Mitchell, Ken Lower Hudson Valley Superintendents Council

Mucher, Stephen Director, Bard Master of Arts in Teaching Program, Los Angeles

Tuck, Eve Assistant Professor, Coordinator of Native American Studies, State University of New York at New Paltz

Naison, Mark Professor of African American Studies and History, Fordham University; Co-Founder, Badass Teachers Association

Nielsen, Kris Author, Children of the Core

Noddings, Nel Professor (emerita) Philosophy of Education, Stanford University

Noguera, Pedro Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education, New York University

Nunez, Isabel Associate Professor, Concordia University, Chicago

Pallas, Aaron Arthur I Gates Professor of Sociology and Education, Columbia University

Peters, Michael Professor, University of Waikato, Honorary Fellow, Royal Society New Zealand

Pugh, Nigel Principal, Richard R Green High School of Teaching, New York City

Ravitch, Diane Research Professor, New York University

Rivera-Wilson Jerusalem Senior Faculty Associate and Director of Clinical Training and Field Experiences, University at Albany

Roberts, Peter Professor, School of Educational Studies and Leadership, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Rougle, Eija Instructor, State University of New York, Albany

Rudley, Lisa Director: Education Policy-Autism Action Network

Saltzman, Janet Science Chair, Physics Teacher, Red Hook High School

Schniedewind, Nancy Professor of Education, State University of New York, New Paltz

Silverberg, Ruth Associate Professor, College of Staten Island, City University of New York

Sperry, Carol Professor of Education, Emerita, Millersville University

St. John, Edward Algo D. Henderson Collegiate Professor, University of Michigan

Suzuki, Daiyu Teachers College at Columbia University

Swaffield, Sue Senior Lecturer, Educational Leadership and School Improvement, University of Cambridge

Tanis, Bianca Parent Member: ReThinking Testing

Thomas, Paul Associate Professor of Education, Furman University

Thrupp, Martin Professor of Education, University of Waikato, New Zealand

Tobin, KT Founding member, ReThinking Testing

Tomlinson, Sally Emeritus Professor, Goldsmiths College, University of London; Senior Research Fellow, Department of Education, Oxford University

Tuck, Eve Coordinator of Native American Studies, State University of New York at New Paltz

VanSlyke-Briggs Kjersti Associate Professor, State University of New York, Oneonta

Wilson, Elaine Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

Wrigley, Terry Honorary senior research fellow, University of Ballarat, Australia

Zahedi, Katie Principal, Linden Ave Middle School, Red Hook, New York

Zhao, Yong Professor of Education, Presidential Chair, University of Oregon

An Invitation to the Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC): Education Forum, 26th April

QPEC logo no borderYou are invited to attend the Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) Education Forum this Saturday.

It will be a great chance to hear the latest experts such as John O’Neill, Martin Thrupp, Warwick Elley, and the chance to discuss your own concerns at the Teacher Forum – and all for FREE.

The Teacher Forum is focusing on Investing in Success (IES) and, to my mind, is not to be missed.  Many well informed people are attending, including Liz Horgan of St Joseph’s, Otahuhu, who will discuss how a group of principals have joined forces to form the CONCERNED NZ PRINCIPALS GROUP because of serious concerns around IES plans.

You can attend any or all of the forum, so do feel free to drop in even if you have only one speaker you really want to hear.  (But truly, you should stay for more than one session – it’s not often you get to hear from all of these people first hand and for free.)

 

WHEN: Saturday 26 April 2014, from 10am.

WHERE: St Columba Centre, 40 Vermont Street, Ponsonby, Auckland

COST:  FREE to all

 

AGENDA

 

10:00 Bill Courtney

Welcome and Overview

 

10:15 John O’Neill

Treasury Business Process Theory and the Assessment of Teacher Quality

The major research paper, “The Assessment of Teacher Quality” was released late last year by the Massey Education Policy Response Group, led by Ivan Snook. EPRG member, John O’Neill, will give an overview of this major paper, containing a wealth of information on many topics relevant to current discussions: the Treasury Business Process policy agenda; assessing teacher effectiveness; Value Added Measurement; and High Stakes Assessment of teachers.

 

10:45 Teacher Forum

“Investing in Educational Success” – the NZ Government initiative.

What are the potential positives and what are the concerns around the NZ Government proposal to create a new set of positions for principals and teachers? QPEC’s initial position was set out in a release issued in January. Martin Thrupp has also released a personal statement and Warwick Elley has had an op-ed published in the NZ Herald.

Liz Horgan of St Joseph’s, Otahuhu, will discuss the CONCERNED NZ PRINCIPALS GROUP’s views.

Representatives from PPTA and NZEI present different perspectives on how these new positions could impact on schools and teachers.

11:15 Martin Thrupp

National Standards and RAINS: where to now?

Martin’s 3-year case study of six individual schools has now concluded. He presents an overview of his findings and gives an update on other developments, including further publication of NS achievement data last year.

 

11:45 Warwick Elley

What Can PISA tell us about NCEA and National Standards?

Warwick has been a concerned critic of standards-based assessment for many years. He has analysed the recent PISA 2012 results and he has a stark warning: “As professionals, teachers are charged to give highest priority to the needs of their students. If we persist with these ill-starred standards-based schemes, we will surely be neglecting those needs. As a nation, too, we are now heavily involved in a race to the bottom.”

 

12:15 Bill Courtney

Charter Schools: What’s The Buzz?

The first five charter schools have now opened. Bill gives a quick update on current issues that have arisen so far, including details of the funding given to each school, which has received a great deal of media attention. Applications for the next round of allocations closed on 11 March.

 

12:45 General Discussion – Other Sectors

 

LUNCH BREAK 1.15-2.00

 

2.00 Dianne Khan

Using Social Media to Disseminate Information & Encourage Involvement

Dianne has joined QPEC during the past year. Dianne publishes her own website, Save Our Schools NZ, and she is also one of the regular contributors to The Daily Blog. Dianne will talk about her website and using social media to stimulate interest in the site.

 

2:30-3.00 QPEC AGM

Please note that the QPEC AGM 2.30-3.00 is members only.

 

QPEC logo landscape larger

My favourite April Fools joke this year – thanks NZEI

1 April 2014 – for immediate release before midday

Adopt the Shanghai approach to improve student learning – NZEI

NZEI Te Riu Roa agrees that New Zealand could match Shanghai’s PISA test score of student achievement by adopting a similar strategy of excluding results that make us look bad.

President Judith Nowotarski says that if New Zealand politicians can revere such blatant manipulation of test scores she has a revolutionary idea that could transform New Zealand education forever.

“We could initiate a public private partnership to build a super partnership school in the back blocks to cater for the 250,000 children that are pulling our rankings down. They could all be in one mega barn class with a super good quality teacher. We then can exclude this school from our PISA results and New Zealand would once again lead the world.”

Shanghai tops the charts in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment because it has a greater concentration of China’s elite with wealthy parents who invest heavily in education inside and outside school as well as the effects of the hukou system that forces many children of migrants back to their rural villages to attend school.

“Identifying children for this new school would be a breeze. They would be the ones that live in poorly insulated housing, in low income families that can’t afford nutritious food or health care.”

“We could call it ‘Inequality Academy’ and it would have the best inter-school sports teams in its region.”

This idea is backed by leading international education expert John Potty-Tester who defends Shanghai’s scores against accusations that the results are meaningless because of the hukou system.

“If we could ensure that only the top achievers were tested, then, like Shanghai, New Zealand would be education champions of the world”.

Twain on fools

Diane Ravitch’s View of PISA Scores

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch notes:

In my recent book, Reign of Error, I quote extensively from a brilliant article by Keith Baker, called “Are International Tests Worth Anything?,” which was published by Phi Delta Kappan in October 2007. Baker, who worked for many years as a researcher at the U.S. Department of Education, had the ingenious idea to investigate what happened to the 12 nations that took the First International Mathematics test in 1964.

He looked at the per capita gross domestic product of those nations and found that “the higher a nation’s test score 40 years ago, the worse its economic performance on this measure of national wealth–the opposite of what the Chicken Littles raising the alarm over the poor test scores of U.S. children claimed would happen.”

He found no relationship between a nation’s economic productivity and its test scores.

Nor did the test scores bear any relationship to quality of life or democratic institutions.

Read the rest here: My View of the PISA Scores.

via My View of the PISA Scores.

.

 

PISA 2012 – Ministry’s main observations

OECD PISA logoSo, the PISA results are in, and everyone is jumping in to claim they prove their point somehow.

Fair enough, I understand that – I am passionate too, and immediately want to know what the results do or do not tell us about how NZ is doing, educationally.

But surely it’s a time to read, reflect, research, and discuss the findings and the study itself, and try to eke out something meaningful form it, rather than just jump in and score Brownie points?

The goal is to see where we can improve things for our learners, after all.

Below are the Ministry’s main take away points from the study, copied verbatim from their web site.

I am going to refrain from commenting or adding my own observations or thoughts for now, as I would rather people read them with an open mind and ask questions of them.

Here goes – get your thinking caps on:

In New Zealand, over 5,000 students (4,291 for core PISA subjects, 958 for financial literacy) from 177 schools took part in the study, in July 2012.

  • New Zealand students scored above the OECD average in mathematics, reading and science.
  • Australia had similar scores in mathematics and reading but had a higher science score.
  • New Zealand student performance remained relatively stable up to 2009. Between 2009 and 2012 performance in mathematics, reading and science declined.
  • The proportion of New Zealand students (below Level 2) increased between 2009 and 2012 in mathematics and science (eg, up from 15% in mathematics in 2009 to 23% in 2012). These are students who struggle to do mathematics or science and whose lack of skills is a barrier to learning.
  • Students who achieve Level 5 or 6 have advanced skills in mathematics, reading or science. In particular, New Zealand has a high proportion of students who are top performers in reading (14%).
  • New Zealand has a relatively high proportion of all-rounder students who are top performers across mathematics, reading and science even compared to the top performing countries (21% are top performers in at least one subject area and 8% are “all rounders”).
  • New Zealand has a relatively large proportion of both top performers (Level 5 and 6) and low performers (below level 2) in mathematics. In addition, New Zealand is counted among the 10 PISA countries and economies with the widest spread of achievement in mathematical literacy.
  • New Zealand students demonstrated relative strength in the mathematical area of uncertainty and data (statistics) and weaker achievement in space and shape (geometry and measurement). Their performance on change and relationships(aspects of algebra) and quantity (number and measurement) was close to the overall New Zealand average for mathematics.
  • Overall boys did much better than girls in mathematics, girls continued to do better than boys in reading and there was very little difference in science.
  • Overall New Zealand European/Pākehā and Asian students scored above the OECD average in mathematics and Māori and Pasifika students scored below the OECD average. However, students from all ethnic backgrounds attained scores right across the achievement spectrum.
  • The average scores in mathematics for boys and girls and for New Zealand Pākehā/European, Māori and Pasifika students all declined between 2009 and 2012, but there was no change for Asian students.
  • Overall, New Zealand is a country characterised by relatively high achievement (when compared to the OECD average) but the distribution of student performance shows that we have relatively low equality (equity) in learning outcomes.
  • New Zealand is a country where the variability of student PISA mathematics scores within a school is high while the variability in scores across schools is relatively low. However, the variability in scores across schools is increasing.

I’d love to hear others’ observations, in the comments below or on the Facebook page.

Regards, Dianne

____________________________________________________________

Sources:

http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/series/2543/pisa-2012/pisa-2012-top-line-results-for-new-zealand

http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/series/2543/pisa-2012/what-is-pisa

Other reading:

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/latest-oecd-findings-point-to-major-failure-of-government-education-policies/

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/oecd-pisa-scores-which-countries-are-beating-nz/

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/a-strangely-schizophrenic-stance-on-nz-education/

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Latest OECD findings point to major failure of government education policies

Picture 1The big drop in New Zealand’s student achievement in recent years is a direct result of a failure of this government’s education, economic and social policies, says NZEI Te Riu Roa National President Judith Nowotarski.

Mrs  Nowotarski says the results  are a clear wake up call to the government.

She says the Minister of Education has overseen one of the biggest drops in our student ranking in recent years.

The OECD PISA results, measuring 15 year old student achievement in science, maths and reading, shows that since 2008 New Zealand has had one of the fastest-growing rates of inequity as well as a corresponding decrease in student performance.

“Across the board New Zealand’s performance has dropped on all the scores and this is something that the government should be ashamed of.  It shows its policies are nothing short of disastrous.”

“For five years the government has been obsessed with collecting unnecessary and irrelevant data when it should have been focussed on making a difference for students.

“The Minister is being misleading when she claims that this decline is a long-running trend.  By far the biggest drop in achievement has occurred since 2009.

“This government’s obsession with data combined with no solutions for failing education policies has been a disaster for many New Zealand children. Instead of working with teachers and schools to improve education, the government has been hell-bent on dismantling our public education system.

“Countries that have a higher level of equity also have better achievement outcomes for all students.   Eighteen percent of New Zealand children now live in poverty and the student achievement gap reflects the impact that poverty has on students’ learning.

“All the findings are saying the same thing.  It’s now time for the government to start to look at what really works in education.

“We need the government to work with teachers and schools to restore our education system to its previous top performing level instead of having one of the fastest levels of decline in the OECD.”

Hekia Parata, Painted-on Ears, Testing and Learning

la-la-la-not-listeningI sometimes wonder whether Hekia Parata and co walk around with their fingers in their ears saying “lalalalalala” or whether they have mastered the art of switching their ears off at will?

Because truly they just don’t seem to want to listen to or learn a thing.

Take this week’s news…

Political Bagging

The University of Waikato’s Professor of Education, Martin Thrupp, and his team release a calm, well-reasoned report into the effects of National Standards on teaching and learning and offers recommendations on what can be done to improve the situation.

This is not the wild raving spouting of a politician, not even the ranting of an infuriated blogger.  This is a Professor.  Of Education.  He kinda knows what he’s talking about.

Lalalalalala Not Listening

I'm not listening earplugsBut what does Hekia sayabout the report?  She proudly boasts that she hasn’t had time to read it.

Wait, isn’t she the Education Minister?  Isn’t it part of her job to read research and know what’s what? Hey I’m just a mother, and I’ve found the time to read it.  Wouldn’t you think it’d be prudent for an Education Minister to use facts and information, and to critique research properly rather than dismiss things out of hand?

Well your answer there would be in how she chose to describe the research in a Radio New Zealand interview.  She called it “the Thrupp NZEI research”.  That’s no accident.

By brushing aside the University of Waikato and leaving out the title Professor, Parata leads the lay person to believe Thrupp is part of the NZEI and talking from a union point of view rather than that of an expert in education.

Why? Because she is not interested in discussing the points made in the report, rather she wants people to dismiss it out of hand and not face the questions it raises about negative impacts of National Standards.  She has an agenda and no research on earth is going to move her.

How can we improve our education system when this petty game-playing is the focus of the Minister and others?

PISA Rankings

It’s been the same story with the up-coming release of the latest PISA data, in which New Zealand is predicted to slip back in the rankings.  Hekia Parata is immediately out there in cahoots with the Herald using this as a reason to promote PaCT.  I won’t get into the ins and outs of PaCT here, more important is to consider why Parata chose not to address the more pertinent issue of whether NZ’s PISA scores are holding firm.

It’s an important difference.  Are we doing worse or not?

Assuming for now that PISA rankings are a reliable indicator of the state of a nation’s education system, then what would matter is whether our scores on the test are holding steady, improving or declining.  If New Zealand’s scores are holding steady or improving, then dropping down in the ranking means other countries have improved ahead of us in the tests, it does not mean we are getting worse.

At this point it is important to note which countries are thought to have moved ahead of us:  Singapore and Hong Kong.

Both of these countries push a narrow curriculum and have a strong societal push for children to do well in tests.  But  just because you produce a nation of good test takers doesn’t mean you produce students who will contribute to the economy, nor does it mean they will have the ability to adapt should the economic climate or industry focuses change.  It’s a very narrow view of success and not one I’m sure sits comfortably with the Kiwi ethos for life and living.

There’s another thing to consider with pushing children to be great test takers, and that is the effect on their health.  

Hong Kong has reported “heavy study loads and pressure from parents to succeed contribute factors to youth suicide, particularly in the run-up to spring and summer exams.”  Singapore has also reported rising suicide rates amongst the young, with one ten year old killing herself because she felt her grades were not good enough.  A visiting academic reported that “Due to rigorous study schedules and pressure to succeed academically, the suicide rate is lofty for high school and college students.”

So is getting the highest test scores all that matters?

What truly matters  is whether New Zealand children are getting a good education that meets their needs for life.  Tests only tell us so much – they are not the be-all and end-all.  And education should not be a political football, it’s not something to use as a way to make money, it’s not there to gain points in an election.  Or it shouldn’t be.

listen to understandListen, Read, Think, Discuss, Learn

We must get over this obsession with merely measuring and reporting test scores.

We have to meaningfully consider and discus expert finding.

We should visit more schools doing brilliantly and research what is happening there that works.

We need  time and resources and good mechanisms to share and promote the best working practices far more widely.

We must adapt teacher training to keep up with best practice and latest pedagogy.

We should work together to further improve the public education system for the benefit of all students.

Shouldn’t we?

A strangely schizophrenic stance on NZ education

funny-pictures-i-may-be-schizophrenic-catIt’s a bit of a worry when the man who created the PISA rankings comes to visit NZ, meets with Hekia Parata, and starts waxing lyrical about how National Standards are going to do great things for our education system, but that’s just what Andreas Schleicher did.

It’s especially odd when, in the same breath, he is lauding our amazing school autonomy, our ingenuity, our innovation.

This is my article from The Daily Blog, pondering his strangely schizophrenic standpoint…

I have been left confused by a recent article by Andreas Schleicher.

In it he begins by singing the praises of  ”New Zealand’s liberal and entrepreneurial school system.”  He speaks very highly of the benefits of school autonomy, reflecting that “It would be hard to imagine [principals doing the same] in one of Southern Europe’s bureaucratic school systems” and ends with triumphant praise of the Kiwi schools that “have moved on from delivered wisdom, to user-generated wisdom, from a culture of standardization, conformity and compliance towards being innovative and ingenious”

Wow, I thought.  He gets it.

He understands that autonomy beats bureaucracy, that creativity beats standardisation, and that Kiwi schools are doing a good job.

Then I remembered, this is the same man who, in a visit to NZ recently, sang the praises of National Standards, and alarm bells started tinkling far away in the back of my mind, but I read on…

Principals’ concerns

Schleicher says there were Kiwi principals complaining to him that they have difficulties attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers, yet he doesn’t address this at all.  Surely that’s a hugely important issue if we are to improve our system further?

Just ponder what school leavers and graduates might be thinking  if they consider teaching as a career:  Why join a profession that is being battered world wide?  Why take a job that is used as a political football?  Why pay for training when some are being paid to jump into the classroom with little or no training?

Because, really,  if teachers can now go into schools after just 6 weeks’ training over the summer holidays while schools are shut or, in the case of charter schools, go into the classroom with no training at all, surely that will put a fair few off paying fees and taking years to get a teaching degree?

Are we slowly but surely giving up on the idea of trained teachers?  And if so, how does that help raise the bar?  Just how does it help principals’ concerns over attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers?  Maybe that’s why he glossed over the issue – it’s easier for him to ignore it than address it?

But I would love to know what the principals think.

There is no discussion, either, of why teachers are leaving the profession in droves.  Maybe it’s easier to gloss over serious issues like that?  But you would think, wouldn’t you, that it might be worth a few lines?

No, because all Schleicher is really interested in, is promoting National Standards….

– Read the rest of the article at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/07/28/education-do-we-want-ingenuity-and-freedom-or-standardisation-and-control/#sthash.1GLLWKv1.dpuf

If you want to know what he thinks of National Standards, click the link and read the rest (and the comments below the article, too).

I’m still baffled by his strangely incoherent views, to be honest, and would welcome any feedback on his original article and my response to it.

~ Dianne

Schools of thought…

i must pay more attentionThis from The Marlborough Express:

Success and failure can be pleasingly distinct. Other times, it’s a matter of definition and perspective.

That’s how it tends to be with education, even though the debate about how our schools and students are performing tends to be as muddy as any wintry slog on a sportsfield.

But this is not a sporting contest. For one thing, the rules tend to be in constant dispute, the sidelines hazy, the pitch uneven and (small point) everybody’s meant to be on the same side.

A couple of attempts to help calibrate our views on educational performance have been made in recent days.

Education Minister Hekia Parata found herself able to point to improved NCEA success rates for secondary school pupils. She was not making it up.

It’s no small thing that 77.2 per cent of 18-year-olds achieved NCEA level 2 last year. That’s up 2.9 per cent on the year before and represents a fair rate of improvement that, if it becomes a trajectory, would nicely surpass the target of 85 per cent set for 2017.

It’s one good sign, though Ms Parata isn’t so naive as to let her quote about the “great result” reach a fullstop without adding the requisite “we must continue to do better”.

It goes on…

At the same time, the Post Primary Teachers’ Association has released research to persuade us to reassess, and discard, one of the rallying cries of our educational critics that “one in five New Zealand pupils is failing in education”.

Using the Education Ministry’s (2009, mind you) OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) database, the researchers conclude the claim is simplistic and ignores complex issues.

Those other factors matter, the report’s authors contend, because the misleadingly narrow message that there is a crisis in schooling is being used to drive through radical policies. The Government’s practice of separating out a single factor failed to recognise many of the factors that contributed to underachievement.

Ms Parata defends the one-in-five estimate as a reflection of research on school leaver qualifications, particularly that up to one in five young people leaves school without the skills needed for modern jobs.

Sorry, “up to”? As many a disappointed shopper exiting a hyped-up store sale can attest, “up to” can represent a maximum that scarcely gives a helpful overview of what’s really on offer.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/marlborough-express/opinion/8910329/Editorial-Schools-of-thought

How true is the mythical “20% tail of underachievment”?

NZ“One in five students is failing” is a catch cry used so often that PPTA commissioned research to get to the bottom of it. 

The results, presented by researchers Liz Gordon and Brian Easton today, reveal the simplistic nature of the claim and the complex issues being ignored every time it is made.

PPTA president Angela Roberts said the overlapping issues of ethnicity, gender and socio-economic status were ignored when simplistic figures such ‘1 in 5’ or ‘20% of students are failing’ were bandied about.

“The message of there being a crisis in schooling is being used to drive through radical policies, but there is not a crisis. There are challenges and we need to deal with these by recognising the complexity of the issues,” she said.

The government’s practice of separating out a single factor – such as ethnicity – and comparing one sub-group to other whole populations was “statistically grossly misleading” and failed to recognise many of the factors contributing to underachievement, Roberts said.

The closest to the politically popular 20% figure the researchers were able to find was that 14.3% of students failed to achieve proficiency level 2 on PISA reading – and a closer examination of this group showed that 74% were male and that socio-economic factors such as parental income and the number of books in the home were clearly contributing issues.

“Constantly focussing on ethnicity as a single factor fails to recognise these overlapping issues,” Roberts said.

A companion report by Easton also contains data that suggests the constant labelling of ‘underachiever’ has had an impact on how students identify themselves ethnically.

Roberts hoped the research would enable the government to take a more sophisticated and nuanced approach to educational achievement and recognise the dangers of over-simplification.

“We hope that politicians and editorial writers will stop throwing around figures like ‘1 in 5’ and ‘national disgrace’ when in reality the issues are much more complicated.”

For links to the full reports and summaries, go here.

What’s All This About Finland’s Education System…?

Pasi - Finnish LessonsFor parents who wish to know.

Finland is a country with an education system that scores highly on PISA tests, but has no high stakes testing programs [e.g. NAPLAN,NCLB,NS] of its own.

It does not believe in the kinds of blanket testing carried out in GERM countries such as Australia, New Zealand, U.K. and U.S.A., all parts of the Global Education Reform Movement.

With little interest and no stake  in the outcomes, Finland offers to undertake PISA tests just for fun.

The term GERM was constructed by Pasi Sahlberg of Finland, who has a mission to share the schooling accomplishments of Finland with world educational leaders who are prepared to think about what they are doing to their children.  Australia is not included in that category; we Aussies don’t like to strain ourselves too much thinking about the things that really happen to kids at school.

Sahlberg’s book, Finnish Lessons, and his advice have been totally ignored by Australian politico-testucators and given the ‘silence treatment’ by the Australian press.  No reason has ever been provided for giving such a prestigious educator the short shift.  Anyhow, who cares?

In PISA scores, Finland is ‘up there’ with Singapore, Japan and South Korea for very different reasons.”

Read more here at The Treehorn Express

OECD PISA Scores – Which Countries Are Beating NZ?

or “What do those in front do that we might learn from?”

or “Who is behind us and why?”

or “Who is slipping backwards in the ratings, and, well what are they doing that we must avoid like the plague?”

Okay now we’ve got the title sorted, let’s see how the 15 year olds are doing around the world…

And more to the point – how the Kiwis are doing… *

 2009  Programme for International Student Assessment — test scores
 # Reading – Overall Mathematics Science
 1  China: Shanghai  556  China: Shanghai  600  China: Shanghai  575
 2  Korea  539  Singapore  562  Finland  554
 3  Finland  536  Hong Kong  555  Hong Kong  549
 4  Hong Kong  533  Korea  546  Singapore  542
 5  Singapore  526  Chinese Taipei  543  Japan  539
 6  Canada  524  Finland  541  Korea  538
 7  New Zealand  521  Liechtenstein  536  New Zealand  532
 8  Japan  520  Switzerland  534  Canada  529
 9  Australia  515  Japan  529  Estonia  528
 10  Netherlands  508  Canada  527  Australia  527
 11  Belgium  506  Netherlands  526  Netherlands  522
 12  Norway  503  China: Macao  525  Chinese Taipei  520
 13  Estonia  501  New Zealand  519  Liechtenstein  520
 14  Switzerland  501  Belgium  515  Germany  520
 15  Iceland  500  Australia  514  Switzerland  517
 16  Poland  500  Germany  513  United Kingdom  514
 17  United States  500  Estonia  512  Slovenia  512
 18  Liechtenstein  499  Iceland  507  China: Macao  511
 19  Germany  497  Denmark  503  Poland  508
 20  Sweden  497  Slovenia  501  Ireland  508
 21  France  496  Norway  498  Belgium  507
 22  Ireland  496  France  497  Hungary  503
 23  Chinese taipei  495  Slovak Republic  497  United States  502
 PISA  average :  501
 24  Denmark  495  Austria  496  Norway  500
 PISA  average :  496
 25  Hungary  494  Poland  495  Czech Republic  500
 26  United Kingdom  494  Sweden  494  Denmark  499
 PISA  average :  493
 Reading – Overall  Mathematics  Science
 27  Portugal  489  Czech Republic  493  France  498
 28  China: Macao  487  United Kingdom  492  Iceland  496
 29  Italy  486  Hungary  490  Sweden  495
 30  Latvia  484  Luxembourg  489  Austria  494
 31  Greece  483  United States  487  Latvia  494
 32  Slovenia  483  Ireland  487  Portugal  493

So, Out of 65 countries worldwide, New Zealand is 7th for Reading and Science, and 13th for Maths.

Now, where are the UK and USA – because we are following in their footsteps with Charter Schools, so they must be good, right?

Maths

  • USA – 31st
  • UK  – 28th
  • Oh, right, so 18 and 15 places behind New Zealand.  Yeah, well, okay, but what about science?

Science

  • USA – 16th
  • UK – 23rd.
  • Where was NZ again?  7th?   Sorry did you say seventh?  So nine places above the USA and 16 places above the UK.  Again, we beat them by miles.  Hmmmm.  And reading?

Reading

  • USA – 17th
  • UK – 26th
  • Remind me again where NZ was?  7th.  So 10 places ahead of Uncle Sam and 19 ahead of the Poms.

Okay I am clearly missing something here…

Why would we want to copy the faulty ideology of countries we are thrashing hands down?

If we want to improve even further, what about maybe paying attention to one of the countries consistently above us, instead?

Anyone?

Anyone?

Beuller???

* Sorry the table was so big, but I had to make it that long to keep the USA and UK visible there near the bottom…

http://ourtimes.wordpress.com/2008/04/10/oecd-education-rankings/

http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/46619703.pdf

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