Posts tagged ‘PISA results’

June 4, 2014

Life is more than Math: Don’t narrow our public education curriculum

By  Ben Sichel | Published May 30th, 2014 by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

What is our public education system for? To judge by much of the talk coming from politicians and business leaders, education is purely a matter of preparing students to be workers in a vaguely defined “new economy.”

Certainly, students need to be able to survive economically in the world. But public education is about much more than narrow job-skills training: it’s about teaching our kids how to create and sustain a healthy, engaged society.

This isn’t always reflected in the way we prioritize certain subjects in school.

Take the example of math. A staple of the curriculum since the dawn of schooling, it’s often perceived as the most serious and rigorous of subjects. Why? Because it’s seen as the key to gainful employment, especially in higher-paid fields. Love it or hate it, many students are ingrained from a young age with the idea that their financial future depends on their ability to solve quadratic equations or prove the Pythagorean theorem.

I have nothing against math; in fact, it was one of my majors. But there are some problems here. One is that only a small percentage of jobs actually use anything beyond junior high math – about a fifth, according to a recent Northeastern University study.

Furthermore, jobs aside, is the material learned in a high school math class necessarily that much more important in life than, say, learning about one’s health, macroeconomics, a second language, or Canada’s treaty obligations with First Nations?

These are not just philosophical questions. In the U.S., a decade of education policies focusing on “career and college-readiness” – Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, and Obama’s Race to the Top and more recent Common Core State Standards – have resulted in an obsessive overemphasis on standardized test scores and narrowing of the curriculum.

As teachers spend an inordinate amount of time teaching to the test, subject matter seen as extraneous, i.e. anything not easily testable or immediately relatable to a job, is pushed to the margins.

Read more: http://behindthenumbers.ca/2014/05/30/lifeismorethanmath

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December 22, 2013

All we want for Christmas in our schools

By: | Published by The Toronto Star

Excerpt:

There are always new methodologies — year after year, century after century- especially now, when private businesses and consultants have learned to siphon off public money in the public system by promising techniques to fix those worrisome test results. The latest is “flipping the classroom.” A basic lesson is fed to students online at home the night before. Next day in school, the “teacher” shuffles around adjusting misunderstandings kid by kid, like a tech. There’s no reason it couldn’t be done online too, or by a robot. Notice what’s missing: the connection or relationship that motivates learning.

What’s deceptive is that experts and consultants in education are adroit at denying exactly what they’re doing: undermining and devaluing teachers. “We aren’t undermining teachers,” they say. “We’re helping them.” It’s like when you hear: This isn’t about money, or: This isn’t about sex. That’s when it is. There were a raft of these self-promoters on TVO’s The Agenda recently, peddling their miracle cures while devoutly affirming their respect for teachers.

The only way to respect teachers — or anyone — is to let them do what they know and find their way. There’s no easy road to curriculum or method; it’s a mutual classroom process of figuring out what you’re teaching regardless of the course title, a gradual discovery of what you’re there to explore and the best route to it. Content and method are inseparable. If that sounds obscure, I’d bet teachers understand it. Nor is there one right approach. That’s the hard fact the consultants and method hustlers try frantically to conceal. Either you respect teachers in this way or you don’t. In Finland they do and they get the highest scores on international tests though they do no general testing themselves.

Read more: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/12/20/all_we_want_for_christmas_in_our_schools_salutin.html

December 14, 2013

Video: What Does the PISA Report Tell Us About U.S. Education?

Some perspective on the PISA rankings from the American Federation of Teachers:

 

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December 5, 2013

What You Need to Know About the International Test Scores

By Diane Ravitch | Published Dec 3 2013 by The Huffington Post

Excerpt:

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. And when it came to creativity, the U.S. “clobbered the world,” with more patents per million people than any other nation.

Baker wrote that a certain level of educational achievement may be “a platform for launching national success, but once that platform is reached, other factors become more important than further gains in test scores. Indeed, once the platform is reached, it may be bad policy to pursue further gains in test scores because focusing on the scores diverts attention, effort, and resources away from other factors that are more important determinants of national success.” What has mattered most for the economic, cultural, and technological success of the U.S., he says, is a certain “spirit,” which he defines as “ambition, inquisitiveness, independence, and perhaps most important, the absence of a fixation on testing and test scores.”

Baker’s conclusion was that “standings in the league tables of international tests are worthless.”

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diane-ravitch/international-test-scores_b_4379533.html

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December 4, 2013

Canadian students front-runners in study of worldwide math skills; Quebec students rank highest

By Andrea Hill | Published Dec 3 2013 by The Montreal Gazette

Excerpt:

Math skills – the main focus of the 2012 PISA survey – were broken down by province, with Quebec students found to be outperforming their peers as they had three years prior.

Quebec youth scored well above the Canadian average in math skills, while students in the Maritimes, Saskatchewan and Manitoba saw results lower than the national average. Scores from Prince Edward Island fell below the average for OECD countries.

Quebec was one of only two provinces that did not see a decline in math skills since the last PISA survey. The other was Saskatchewan.

While Johnson acknowledged Canada is not alone in seeing a downward trend in math skills — most OECD countries are witnessing the same thing — he said there is a need for Canada to “take action” to prevent further slipping.

Johnson suggested that provinces look to Quebec for clues on how to improve their own education systems, and said Quebec’s push to provide specialized training for math teachers may be part of the solution.

“One of the best places to spend your money is on teaching quality,” he said. “We need more investment on teachers with more specialized training and expertise in teaching math.”

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/national/Canadian+students+front+runners+study+worldwide+math/9240072/story.html