In yesterday’s Seattle Times there was a column by Danny Westneat titled "Time to school this myth" that reminded me of an article in my potential blog file. The article was referenced in a Class Struggle blog post. Westneat refers to the same report found on the Class Struggle post.
Basically, the report calls into question the response to the release late last year of the international PISA scores placing our 15 year olds in the middle of the pack with Shanghai, Finland, and others well ahead of us. At the time it caused quite a furor that I posted about on December 9th. Remember the comments about a Sputnik moment and Arnie Duncan’s wake up call.
"For me, it's a massive wake-up call," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday. "Have we ever been satisfied as Americans being average in anything? Is that our aspiration? Our goal should be absolutely to lead the world in education."
At the time it was a huge topic in the news for multiple days. Once again, tearing down public schools and raising concerns about competition with China. The “reformers”, those seeking any data point to further their cause for charters, merit pay, value added, and testing, fail to draw comparisons between our 15 year olds and those taking the test in Shanghai, a province that is not representative of the education most Chinese students receive. With Finland, they fail to look at the less than 3% child poverty rate compared to 23% in our country, the impact of universal health care, day care, and preschool to support children and families, and the status and pay of teachers in that country.
They also fail to make note of the fact that the need for a wake-up call comes on the heels of more charters, more tests, higher levels of accountability, and NCLB. I guess they believe that these preferred practices haven’t had the time necessary to achieve the expected results. I’m sure that if asked they will have adequate answers. Well, you get the picture. I’m tired of hearing about how bad we are and creating a canvass with one color. We are not supporting every child to reach their standards, but we are also not doing poorly and we certainly care and are searching for and developing adaptive practices to better meet the needs of ALL our young people.
I commend both the Westneat article and the earlier Class Struggle post for sharing the Brookings report. What this report does is call into question the deterioration of public schools in our country based on these international tests. What the report found is summarized below.
Two myths of international assessments are debunked—the first, that the United States once led the world on international tests of achievement. It never has. The second myth is that Finland leads the world in education, with China and India coming on fast. Finland has a superb school system, but, significantly, it scores at the very top only on PISA, not on other international assessments. Finland also has a national curriculum more in sync with a “literacy” thrust, making PISA a friendly judge in comparing Finnish students with students from other countries. And what about India and China? Neither country has ever participated in an international assessment. How they would fare is unknown.
According to this report, from the beginning of these international assessments in 1964 we have been middle of the pack and lower. The data would suggest that we are actually improving. I am not going to study the report and compare it to what others are saying. The question for me is why we are not seeing the same level of media coverage for this report as we saw for the release of the data. If this later information is accurate, shouldn’t people know about it? Should we not be making future decisions about schools based on accurate data? As Westneat says:
Why is that? I get that if you're trying to change or reform something, it might not help your cause to notice when it improves.
It would be really interesting if the reformers had used the data to say that NCLB, testing, and charters are working they just need more time and more of the same and we can become number one, the goal of our President. If we want to measure our success, I say let’s put our best against the best anywhere in the world and ask them to put their literacy and mathematical knowledge and skills towards finding solutions to the “BIG” problems we face today and those in the future. I’m betting that our kids will do well in that competition. Yes, we need all high school graduates to enter post high school learning and work with high literacy and mathematical capacity in, but using the results of these international tests to scare us into hasty and ill advised changes will not be successful.
I better stop before I say too much more, but I am tired of reading and hearing about how badly we are doing and the simple solutions being put forward by people who just don’t get it. We need support and guidance as we change our cultures to embrace the adaptive changes necessary to meet the learning needs of ALL students, not more bashing. And, we CAN’T meet the learning needs of ALL students until our society embraces the need to assist us in meeting the social and emotional needs of not just the struggling learner, but of ALL learners. Where is this recognition and where is this support? When we experience it, we will see both the pace of change and achievement increase.