Archives for category: International

Laura H. Chapman is a frequent contributor to the blog and a curriculum consultant in the arts.

Shortly after releasing the Standards with much publicity about international benchmarking, the CCSSO helped to fund a study that shows the Standards are not, in fact, closely aligned with the standards of nations that score higher on international tests.
In mathematics, for example, the nations with the highest test scores—Finland, Japan, and Singapore—devote about 75% of instruction to “perform procedures” compared to the CCSS emphasis at about 38%.

These same nations give almost no attention to “solve non-routine problems” compared to the CCSS.

In ELA, countries that score at the highest level also have patterns of emphasis in different grade spans that differ substantially from the CCSS, with a greater emphasis overall on “perform procedures” than in the CCSS.

The big surprise is that a significant part of “perform procedures” in mathematics and ELA is following directions and completing highly conventional assignments, free of elaborated analysis and generalization.

In other words, compliance with the conventions of schooling has a strong association with higher test scores. Wowzie. Who would have guessed that learning to follow directions mattered so much?

Note also that the former president of the American Educational Research Association, Andrew Porter, was among others who did this study and made the connection of the CCSS to the “new US intended curriculum. See: Porter, A.; McMaken ,J.; Hwang, J. ; & Yang, R. (2011). Common core standards: The new U.S. intended curriculum. Educational Researcher, 40(3). 103-116. DOI: 10.3102/0013189X11405038

A report from the OECD, which sponsors the international assessment PISA, finds that competition among schools for students (“choice”) is not associated with higher math scores but is associated with higher levels of social segregation.

“PISA results…show that, on average across countries, school competition is not related to better mathematics performance among students. In systems where almost all 15-year-olds attend schools that compete for enrollment, average performance is similar to that in systems where school competition is the exception.

“What this means is that school choice may actually spoil some of the intended benefits of competition, such as greater innovation in education and a better match between students’ needs and interests and what schools offer, by reinforcing social inequities at the same time.”

In the U.S., school choice began as an integral part of the opposition to court-ordered desegregation. The word “choice” was a code word for segregation. Southern politicians were all for choice because it would allow white students to “escape” to white schools, leaving black students in all-black schools. Today, charter schools are more segregated than district schools, even in districts that have high levels of segregation, according to the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. today, the media celebrates all-black schools if they get high test scores. Charters have become a way of enabling renewed segregation.

Which is the most powerful player behind the scenes in corporate reform?

This article says, without doubt, McKinsey.

Where did David Coleman, architect of the Common Core standards, get his start: McKinsey.

Which firm pushes the narrative of a “crisis in education”: McKinsey.

Which firm believes that Big Data will solve all problems? McKinsey.

Look behind the screen, behind the curtain: McKinsey.

“Tony Little, headmaster of Eton, says that the U.K.’s testing system is unimaginative and misleading.

“England’s “unimaginative” exam system is little changed from Victorian times and fails to prepare young people for modern working life, Eton’s headmaster has said.

“Tony Little said there was a risk that “misleading” test scores may become more important than education itself, and warned against a narrow focus on topping rankings.

“There is a great deal more to an effective and good education than jostling for position in a league table,” Little wrote in a Viewpoint article for the Radio Times.

“He said England’s attempts to copy the highly academic schooling offered in areas of the far east such as Shanghai was ironic, since schools there were now looking at the value of giving children a more rounded education.

“Here is the irony; we seem intent on creating the same straitjacket the Chinese are trying to wriggle out of,” he wrote. “We should be wary of emulating Shanghai just as they themselves see some value in the liberal values of an all-round education – something we have traditionally been good at.”

“Shanghai is rated the top education system in the OECD’s Pisa tests (Programme for International Student Assessment), which compare the performance of children in 65 countries.

“English children’s comparatively poor performance in the rankings was cited by Michael Gove, the former education secretary, as justification for introducing more traditional exams, academies and free schools. Liz Truss, a former education minister, visited to Shanghai to learn the secrets of its success…..

“But Little said England’s exam system was outdated. “[The exam system] obliges students to sit alone at their desks in preparation for a world in which, for much of the time, they will need to work collaboratively.”

“Little, who is due to retire next year, gave his support to a Lancashire primary school that found itself in the spotlight after a letter telling pupils them not to worry about their test results went viral.”

This is the most absurd “report” yet. This organization says that the U.S. does not have an “efficient” school system. Finland has the most efficient school system. What can we do to become more efficient? Cut teachers’ salaries and increase class size.

Funny, when I visited Finland in 2011, I saw many classes, none larger than 16. Teachers’ pay is equivalent to U.S. pay.

“The Efficiency Index –which education systems deliver the best value for money? was released today.

US ranks nineteenth out of thirty countries in new ranking of education system efficiency

Released 19.01 EDT Thursday September 4 2014

The US ranks in the bottom half of a new international comparison of the efficiency of education systems across OECD countries – lower than Japan, Korea and many northern European countries.

The Efficiency Index –which education systems deliver the best value for money?, commissioned by GEMS Education Solutions, is the first comprehensive international analysis that looks at how efficiently education budgets are allocated in each country.

It ranks 30 OECD countries based on their expenditure on teacher costs, which account for 80 per cent of education budgets, and the pupil outcomes they achieve. In this way, it calculates which system generates the greatest educational return for each dollar invested.

The report is written by Professor Peter Dolton, Professor of Economics at Sussex University and a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics; Dr Oscar Marcenaro Gutie�rrez, Associate Professor at the University of Ma�laga; and Adam Still, Education Finance and Development Specialist at GEMS Education Solutions.

The index ranks Finland as the most efficient country in the OECD. According to the index’s econometric model, which calculates the proven statistical link between teacher salaries or class size and PISA scores, the US could match Finland high PISA’s results and still make efficiency savings by increasing class sizes and making a modest cut in teacher salaries. It finds that these results could be achieved even if the US was to increase its pupil/teacher ratio by 10 per cent.

Alternatively, if it were more efficient, the US could match Finland’s PISA results and still reduce teacher salaries by 4.7 per cent from the US average teacher salary of $41,460 to $39,520. The index argues that the US should consider addressing both teacher salary and class sizes to improve its education efficiency. As the largest country in the OECD, its overall education spend is five times that of any other country in the study and its teacher salaries are comparatively high.

The report stops short of advocating particular changes to salaries or class size in each country. It makes clear that there may be labour market, cultural, economic or political reasons why this ‘maximum’ efficiency is not possible without negative consequences. The authors have not examined the practical impact of such changes in each country. However, by showing how far countries fall short of the OECD’s most efficient system, the index provides an instructive point of comparison when Governments are allocating budgets.

The report groups the countries according to their efficiency:

1. Elite Performers: Finland, Japan and Korea score very well in both the efficiency and quality stakes.

2. Efficient and Effective: Australia, Czech Republic, New Zealand and Slovenia are all performing relatively well on efficiency and producing high PISA scores.

3. More Effective than Efficient: Overspending (too high salaries) or bloated (too many teachers): Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland. These countries perform better in terms of quality than efficiency. This may be because their system generates other outcomes that aren’t captured by PISA rankings. Alternatively, it may be because their systems are over-resourced beyond the threshold required to achieve high educational outcomes.

4. More Efficient than Effective: Underspending or underperforming: Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Norway, Sweden, UK and USA. These countries are more efficient than educationally effective. This could be because they have resource constraints that prevent them from improving quality such as low salaries may prevent the recruitment of highly skilled teachers. Alternatively, if extensive resources are already being spent, it could that the education system is flawed – and that policy changes, rather than additional resources, would improve education outcomes.

5. Inefficient and Ineffective: Brazil, Chile, Greece, Indonesia, Turkey These systems are inefficient and at the same time fail to produce good pupil outcomes.

The report finds that changes to teacher salary and pupil teacher ratio can improve efficiency because, out of 63 different inputs into the education system – from teaching materials to infrastructure – these were the only two that had a statistically significant impact on pupils’ PISA scores.

This is a powerful insight for policy makers since, unlike a child’s socio-economic background, parental support, or a child’s aspirations, governments have the policy levers to change both teacher salary and class sizes.

The report acknowledges that some countries, such as Switzerland and Germany, which both spend lavishly on their education system and achieve good results, may choose to pursue policies in which educational efficiency is not their priority. For instance, they may feel that PISA does not capture all the student outcomes that their system is aiming for.

Together, the 30 OECD countries in the study spent $2.2 trillion dollars on their education systems each year, and the average proportion of GDP that countries spend on education has been rising for decades. In an environment where state education budgets are likely to continue to be stretched and face competition from other spending priorities, the Efficiency Index sheds light on the effectiveness of the spending choices that policy-makers are currently making.

KEY FINDINGS:

Over the last 15 years Finland’s education system has been the most efficient in the OECD. Other high performers include Korea, Japan and Hungary and the Czech Republic. In contrast, Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy exhibit low efficiency.

Excellent outcomes are still possible with relatively large class sizes – despite a focus on reducing class-sizes in many western education systems. Finland and Korea, the two countries studied with the most efficient education systems, achieve good results, have relatively large class sizes – the 3rd and 5th largest of the OECD countries – and pay teachers moderate wages.

The US is in the bottom third of the efficiency index. As the biggest OECD country, it has an overall education spend five times higher than any other country in the study and pays very high teachers salaries.

Countries can be inefficient if they both underpay or overpay teachers. Some countries such as Indonesia and Brazil are inefficient because their low teachers pay makes it hard to recruit and retain high-calibre individuals into the profession. Modest extra expenditure would result in significantly better educational outcomes. Equally, higher salaries given to teachers who are already achieving excellence, such as those paid in Switzerland and Germany, may fail to increase performance and therefore harm efficiency.

In general those countries that demonstrate high efficiency also attain high educational outcomes. Five out of the top ten countries in the Efficiency Index are also in the PISA top ten.

Chris Kirk, Chief Executive, GEMS Education Solutions:

“GEMS Education Solutions commissioned the efficiency index to inform the debate about which items of educational expenditure are likely to make the greatest impact on the attainment of children.

It allows us to see which systems around the world produce the best results per pound, providing a data driven analysis that can inform policy choices. It clearly shows that some countries spend their available resources more efficiently than others.

“At a time at which many countries are struggling with tight public budgets. It also sends an important message to poorer countries that significant educational improvement is possible even with limited investment.”

Marc Tucker writes that we test students more than any of the high-performing nations in the world.

Here is a graph that demonstrates the differences.

Tucker proposed a new accountability system for the U.S. that puts us more in line with common practice.

Here are his key points:

“The ideas outlined by Marc Tucker in Fixing Our National Accountability System signify a departure from conventional thinking on the issue of accountability. Rather than focus on punishing teachers for the results of a system that others designed, the core components of this report rest on three fundamental principles:

1) Testing: Instead of testing all of our students every year with low-quality tests, students would take high-quality accountability tests, covering a full core curriculum, only three times in their school career. In some off years, tests in math and ELA would be administered only to samples of students by computer and would not carry high stakes for teachers or students.

2) Use of Data: Data from these tests would be used to identify schools that might be in trouble, and to deploy a team of expert educators to assist in resolving the issues with the help of districts and/or states. This data would be available to the general public but it would not include a rank or grade.

3) Policies for Professionals: Enact policies that make it attractive for our nation’s strongest teachers and principals to work in the most at-risk schools – these very same policies would also make teaching an attractive career for some of our best high school graduates and transform teaching into a high status profession.”

Education policymakers in the U.S. seem to think that more tests will produce higher achievement, but there is no evidence for this assumption. As this article from the Center on International Education Benchmarking shows, the U.S. tests more frequently than any of the world’s high-performing nations.

Jackie Kraemer writes:

“Unlike the top-performing countries on the 2012 PISA, the United States stands out for the amount of external testing it requires for all students. As the chart below shows, the United States is the only country among this set to require annual testing in primary and middle schools in reading and mathematics. A more typical pattern among the top-performers is a required gateway exam, or an exam that allows a student to move on to the next phase of education, at the end of primary school, the end of lower secondary school and the end of upper secondary school. This is true of Canada (Ontario), China (Shanghai), Estonia, Poland and Singapore. In some of these cases, the secondary school exams are used to determine placement in the next level of schooling such as in Singapore and Shanghai where the lower school-leaving exam determines placement in upper secondary school. And in Poland, Shanghai and Singapore the upper secondary academic exam functions as an admission exam for university. This differs from the United States where annual tests are used primarily for school and teacher accountability purposes.”

“How tests are used is also different among the high performers. South Korea and Japan test only for diagnostic purposes in the primary schools, and South Korea continues to test for diagnostic purposes through 10th grade. It is at the secondary level that they introduce the high stakes exams for students, with Japanese students required to take an entrance exam for upper secondary school and students in both countries required to take tests at the end of upper secondary school that will determine what kind of higher education institution they can enter. These tests are recognized as very high pressure for students and both countries are trying to address that issue. In both Korea and Japan, some students enter a vocational training system at the upper secondary level and take tests to qualify for vocational credentials rather than the tests for entry into university.

“Hong Kong and Finland have no required testing until the end of upper secondary school. Taiwan is a bit of a hybrid, with no required testing in primary school, but a Basic Competency Test at the end of lower secondary (along with three required tests a year in each of three subjects during lower secondary) that determines admission to upper secondary school.”

We can’t test our way to success. The more time devoted to testing, the less time available for instruction. tests are best usedfor diagnostic purposes. tests with stakes attached are delayed in these nations until secondary schools. We should learn from the leaders of the pack.

I received news from England that a letter written by Rachel Tomlinson, the head of Barrowford, a primary school in Lancashire, went viral.

The letter was a clone of one written by American teacher Kimberly Hurd Horst on her blog.

No claims of plagiarism here. Maybe every principal and teacher should send the same letter home when students get their Common Core test scores, saying they failed. Remind parents that children are more than a test score. Tell them that the passing mark was set unreasonably high. Tell them that the tests failed, not the children.

In October last year Hurd Horst wrote on her blog: “There are many more ways to be smart than what many schools are currently allowing. The current testing culture personally drives me crazy. It does not tell students that they matter. Tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each student special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each student the way I do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way the families do. They do not know that some of my students speak two languages. They do not know that they can play a musical instrument or that they can dance or paint a picture. Doesn’t that matter more?”

The school seemed to acknowledge debt to Hurd, retweeting a comment from someone linking to her blog.

C.M. Rubin traveled the globe and interviewed educators with interesting ideas, insights, experience.

She conducted more than 250 interviews.

She invited Adam Steiner, a technology specialist in the Holliston, Massachusetts, public schools to review them and select the Top Ten.

I am happy to say that I am one of them.

Read here to find the Top Ten and their interviews.

Andy Hargreaves of Boston College asks an important question: What is the purpose of benchmarking? We collect data, we measure, we test, we set goals, but why? Will it improve performance if we know that someone else does it better? Do they have the same challenges, the same resources? Is there more to education than raising tests ores and do higher test scores necessarily mean better education?

Andy begins with two stories about benchmarking, one positive, one negative. One improved public health, one made it easier to conduct war.

Right now, under pressure from No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, everything is measured. Why? To fire teachers and principals? To close schools? To hand public property to entrepreneurs? Who benefits? What do we do with the losers? Throw them away? Plenty of children were left behind, and many will not make it to “the top.”

Andy writes:

“Is the purpose of our educational benchmarking to further the public good, to raise the standards of education for all, to elevate the poorest and most disadvantaged students to the greatest heights of accomplishment? And once we have done our calculations and made our maps, what pathways will be opened up, and what people and resources will be pulled along them in this worthy quest for equity and excellence? The White House announced earlier this summer that it would address educational inequities by collecting data to help pinpoint where they existed, but there seemed to be no plan to bring up the people and resources to correct them.

“Is there a second purpose of educational benchmarking then? Is it to delineate the weak from the strong, inciting nation to compete against nation, Americans against Asians, and school against school. After we have pinpointed schools that are failing, does this just make it easier for invading opportunists to set up charter schools in their place, or to market online alternatives, tutoring services and the like?

“As in surveying, benchmarking in education should be about discovering where we stand and learning about who we are and what we do by observing those around us. It should be about improving public education, just as the sewer maps for my hometown contributed to public sanitation. Benchmarking should not be about fomenting panics about performance in relation to overseas competitors. And it should not be about dividing schools, families and communities from each other to create easy pickings for the educational market.

“Whenever we are engaged in the data-driven detail of educational benchmarking, these are the greater questions we should be asking. Of what map or whose map are we the servants?”

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