But then there is the matter of international test scores. The PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) test, administered every 3 years, measures performance in reading, math, science and problem-solving skills. While the U.S. has maintained its score level over several administrations of the test, other countries score higher. The conclusion the "reformers" reach is that we are not keeping up with our international competition. Our public schools are "failing" and drastic changes are needed.
Sorry, but that's only true if you compare apples to oranges!
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) has done a very nice job of looking inside the numbers for the PISA test. They have a nice analysis, and you might be very surprised at where the USA really stands when apples are compared with apples. Please take a few minutes and click here to read their piece, then come back here when you are done.
Welcome back! Let's review:
• U.S. students in schools with 10% or less poverty are the number one country in the world.
· U.S. students in schools with 10-24.9% poverty are third behind Korea, and Finland.
· U.S. students in schools with 25-50% poverty are tenth in the world.
· U.S. students in schools with greater than 50% poverty are near the bottom.
Poverty is not an excuse, it's a fact of life and the USA has a greater percentage of kids living in poverty than any other country in the world.
To quote the NASSP: "When it comes to student achievement and school improvement, it's poverty not stupid! Researchers report that perhaps the only true linear relationship in the social sciences is the relationship between poverty and student performance. While there is no relationship between poverty and ability, the relationship between poverty and achievement is almost foolproof. To deny that poverty is a factor to be overcome as opposed to an excuse is to deny the reality that all educators, human services workers, law enforcement officers, medical professionals and religious clergy know and have known for years.... regretfully, poverty impacts test scores."
"We count on our leaders to provide focus and direction. Sadly, our education leaders don't trust us enough to tell us the truth. The problem is that we will never solve a problem that our leaders refuse to admit even exists. The comparison of PISA scores by poverty clearly identifies our strengths and challenges as a nation. Our schools with less than 50% poverty are some of the best in the world. Our extremely high-poverty schools, with over 50% poverty, are among the poorest performing internationally."
"Instead of labeling all schools as failing, we must find a way to raise the performance of our students in under-resourced schools. Instead of looking to low-poverty countries like Finland for direction, we should be looking to take what we already know about educating students in high-performing, high-poverty schools like our Breakthrough Schools and scaling up their successes across the nation. We continually look for gold in other countries when, all along, we are sitting on acres of diamonds."