Tuesday, June 4, 2013

High School Students Don't Need Another Test

According to a recent report, U.S. high schools should start taking part in yet another standardized test, as a way to spur improvements in achievement. Specifically, the report contends that participating in a new international test will benefit U.S. middle class students.

The report, from the advocacy organization America Achieves, is titled Middle Class or Middle of the Pack: What can we learn when benchmarking U.S. schools against the world’s best?. It contends that U.S. students are performing inadequately in the math and science portions of a prominent international assessment called the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA), run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The authors of the report consider the PISA results a “wake-up call to America’s middle class.” They contend that in response U.S. high schools should start taking part in a new international test, based on the PISA and also run by the OECD, that will compare the academic knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds around the world.

But a review of the report released today finds no evidence to support the report’s arguments. Martin Carnoy of Stanford University reviewed the report for the Think Twice think tank review project and is published today by the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.

Carnoy points out that with its report, America Achieves promotes the idea that individual school participation in such international tests offers a valid means of improving school effectiveness and the effectives of national education systems. Yet he notes that the report itself fails to support this claim, and the claim is also not supported by PISA reports or the broader literature on school improvement and educational reform.

The America Achieves report “is not grounded in research but rather is an assertion that measurement, by itself, is an effective reform tool.” And it makes that assertion without ever explaining how the test in question would be linked to curricula or strategies tailored to teaching mathematics and science, or to specific teacher professional development strategies.

“Thus the report is of no utility to policymakers,” Carnoy concludes.

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