Comparing My Little (Global) School

Apr 5, 2013 by

THERE was a time when middleclass parents in America could be – and were – content to know that their kids’ public schools were better than those in the next neighbourhood over. As the world has shrunk, though, the next neighbourhood over is now Shanghai or Helsinki. So, last August, I wrote a column quoting Andreas Schleicher – who runs the global exam that compares how 15-year-olds in public schools around the world do in applied reading, math and science skills – as saying imagine, in a few years, that you could sign on to a website and see how your school compares with a similar school anywhere in the world. And then you could take this information to your superintendent and ask: “Why are we not doing as well as schools in China or Finland?”


Well, that day has come, thanks to a successful pilot project involving 105 US schools recently completed by Schleicher’s team at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which coordinates the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA test, and Jon Schnur’s team at America Achieves, which partnered with the OECD. Starting this fall, any high school in America will be able to benchmark itself against the world’s best schools, using a new tool that schools can register for at www.americaachieves. org. It is comparable to PISA and measures how well students can apply their mastery of reading, math and science to real world problems.

The pilot study was described in an America Achieves report entitled “Middle Class or Middle of the Pack?”. The report compares US middle class students to their global peers of similar socioeconomic status on the 2009 PISA exams.

The bad news is that US middle-class students are badly lagging their peers globally. “Many assume that poverty in America is pulling down the overall US scores,” the report said, “but when you divide each nation into socioeconomic quarters, you can see that even America’s middle-class students are falling behind not only students of comparable advantage, but also more disadvantaged students in several other countries.”

US students in the second quarter of socioeconomic advantage – mostly higher middle class – were significantly outperformed by 24 countries in math and by 15 countries in science, the study found. In the third quarter of socioeconomic advantage – mostly lower middle class – US students were significantly outperformed by peers in 31 countries or regions in math and 25 in science.

The good news, though, said Schnur, “is that, for the first time, we have documented that there are individual US schools that are literally outperforming every country in the world.”


“BASIS Tucson North, a nonselective high school serving an economically modest middle-class student population in Arizona, outperformed the average of every country in the world in reading, math, and science,” the report said. “Three nonselective high schools in Fairfax, Virginia, outperformed the average of virtually every country in the world.” One of them, Woodson, outperformed every region in the world in reading, except Shanghai. But the pilot also exposed some self-deception. “One school, serving students similar to Woodson’s, lags behind 29 countries in math but received an A on its state’s accountability system based primarily on that state’s own test,” Schnur said.

via Qatar Tribune – First with the news and whats behind it.

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