On Tuesday, the results of the international test called PISA will be released.

Years ago, no one paid much attention to the release of international test scores, but now they have become an occasion for official moaning, groaning, and hyperventilating. It is time to remember the story about “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Will we hear more declarations that the latest results are “our Sputnik moment”? Will we hear more predictions that our economy is headed for disaster because some other nation has higher test scores? You can count on it.

Richard Rothstein and Martin Carnoy write here that the U.S. Department of Education released early copies of the PISA results only to organizations that can be counted on to echo the Obama administration’s official line that American schools are failing and declining and unable to compete in the global competition.

They write:

Typically, The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is given an advance look at test score data by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and issues press releases with conclusions based on its preliminary review of the results. The OECD itself also provides a publicized interpretation of the results. This year, ED and the OECD are planning a highly orchestrated event, “PISA Day,” to manipulate coverage of this release.

It is usual practice for research organizations (and in some cases, the government) to provide advance copies of their reports to objective journalists. That way, journalists have an opportunity to review the data and can write about them in a more informed fashion. Sometimes, journalists are permitted to share this embargoed information with diverse experts who can help the journalists understand possibly alternative interpretations.

In this case, however, the OECD and ED have instead given their PISA report to selected advocacy groups that can be counted on, for the most part, to echo official interpretations and participate as a chorus in the official release.1 These are groups whose interpretation of the data has typically been aligned with that of the OECD and ED—that American schools are in decline and that international test scores portend an economic disaster for the United States, unless the school reform programs favored by the administration are followed.

The Department’s co-optation of these organizations in its official release is not an attempt to inform but rather to manipulate public opinion. Those with different interpretations of international test scores will see the reports only after the headlines have become history.

Which organizations got early copies of the PISA data? The organizations who have been provided with advance copies of this government report, and that are participating in the public release are: The Alliance for Excellent Education, Achieve, ACT, America Achieves, the Asia Society, the Business Roundtable, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the College Board, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. These organizations and their leaders have a history of bemoaning Americans’ performance on international tests and predicting tragic consequences for the nation that will follow.

Rothstein and Carnoy remind us that thirty years ago a federal government report called “A Nation at Risk” warned of our dire peril, and that report has since been proven wrong:

Advocates participating in Tuesday’s staged PISA Day release include several who, a quarter century ago, warned that America’s inadequate education system and workforce skills imperiled our competitiveness and future. Their warnings were followed by a substantial acceleration of American productivity growth in the mid-1990s, and by an American economy whose growth rate surpassed the growth rates of countries that were alleged to have better prepared and more highly skilled workers.

Today, threats to the nation’s future prosperity come much less from flaws in our education system than from insufficiently stimulative fiscal policies which tolerate excessive unemployment, wasting much of the education our young people have acquired; an outdated infrastructure: regulatory and tax policies that reward speculation more than productivity; an over-extended military; declining public investment in research and innovation; a wasteful and inefficient health care system; and the fact that typical workers and their families, no matter how well educated, do not share in the fruits of productivity growth as they once did. The best education system we can imagine can’t succeed if we ignore these other problems.

We don’t plan to comment on tomorrow’s release, except to caution that any conclusions drawn quickly from such complex data should not be relied upon. We urge commentators to await our and other careful analyses of the new PISA results before accepting the headline-generating assertions by government officials and their allies upon the release of the national summary report.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if some of these organizations asked the obvious question: Why does the United States continue to thrive and prosper even though our scores on international tests are not at the top? Why was “A Nation at Risk” so terribly wrong in its predictions of doom and gloom to come if we didn’t raise those international test scores?

– See more at: http://www.epi.org/blog/pisa-day-ideological-hyperventilated-exercise/#sthash.mlTQYkwp.dpuf