Education Week - February 17, 2016 - (Page 7)
U.S. Manages to Reduce Share
Of Low PISA Scores-in Science
By Sarah D. Sparks
After more than a decade of heavy
investment in closing achievement
gaps and bringing all students to
proficiency in reading and mathematics, the United States has fewer
low-performing students on the Program for International Student Assessment-but only in science.
In math and reading, by contrast,
there were no changes at all in the
share of low-performing students
on PISA between 2003 and 2012,
according to a new analysis by the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. America
was mostly flat during that period,
remaining a little worse than the international average in the share of
students who performed below minimum proficiency in all three subjects. Each of the three core subjects
in PISA is administered together
every three years to 15-year-olds in
more than three dozen countries.
The assessment tends to focus on
critical thinking and ways students
apply what they have learned.
Among U.S. students in that age
group, 26 percent were low-performing in math, 17 percent in reading,
and 18 percent in science. More than
1 in 10-some 95,000 students-
scored low in all three subjects.
"These are big numbers," Andreas
Schleicher, OECD's director for education and skills, said in a briefing
with reporters. "You translate that
into the future, these are people who
will be underemployed, unemployed.
... This is a very significant liability
for our society."
Nine other countries did significantly reduce the number of students who were low-performing during the same time frame, including
Brazil, Mexico, and Russia.
The OECD considers students
"low performing" if they score below
level 2-for example, less than
420 points on a 1,000-point scale
in math. And American students
didn't always do well even on level
1 questions: Only 54 percent of U.S.
students correctly answered a math
question requiring a student to calculate an exchange between two
currencies, which was set at a difficulty level well below level 2 and
which 80 percent of students across
the OECD answered correctly. In
fact, out of 41 OECD countries, only
Brazil had fewer students get the
Science a 'Puzzle'
In contrast to math and reading,
the proportion of low-performing
students in science decreased by
6 percentage points between 2003
and 2012. "I think the science result
in the U.S. deserves some further
analysis," Schleicher said. "It's a
puzzle to us, a puzzle to me."
OECD's analysis, like many other
studies, found that a student's risk
of being a low performer creeps up
steadily from a host of disadvantages that vary in importance from
country to country. For example,
80 percent of girls in poverty with
other challenges performed below
minimum proficiency in math.
Poverty was a factor everywhere,
but its effect differed widely. In the
United States, a student in poverty
was seven times as likely to be a
poor performer as a wealthy student, while in the OECD generally,
poor students were four times as
likely to be low performers.
Moreover, in the United States
and 24 other countries with similar
demographic and educational profiles, a student's poverty increased
the risk of other characteristics,
such as being an immigrant or a
girl, speaking a different language
from the home country, or having
had little or no preschool. By contrast, 21 countries including Brazil,
Mexico, Tunisia, and Turkey, all
showed that students in poverty
with other risk factors had a lower
likelihood of being low-performing,
suggesting they had more supports
for those students.
The OECD also found that while
educational resources were needed
to reduce a country's pool of lowperforming students, the amount of
per-pupil spending in each country
HOW DID LOW PERFORMERS IN MATHEMATICS
DO ON PISA IN 2003 AND 2013?
Percentage of students who score below minimum proficiency in a sample
of PISA countries:
OECD average 2003
SOURCE: OECD, PISA 2012 Database
was not as closely linked with performance as with how equitably
countries spent the money they had.
Students' own dedication and confidence in their abilities played a big
role, too, the OECD found.
For example, the OECD found
students who completed six to seven
hours of homework each week were
70 percent less likely to be lowperforming in math, and those who
participated in such extracurricular
activities as art or music were even
more likely to be proficient.
But the OECD also found that
low-performing math students,
wealthy or poor, were significantly
more likely to believe that their efforts were meaningless and nothing
could help them get better.
"Low-performers look alike in attitudes toward school, attendance,
belonging, and math self-efficacy,
regardless of whether they are
from disadvantaged backgrounds,"
Schleicher said. "Many students
say, that's all about talent, that's all
about things beyond my control."
Visit the Inside School Research blog, which
tracks news and trends on this issue.
Educators Talk About How They
Know They're in the Right School
| TEACHING NOW | Every school is different. Different
administrators, different colleagues, different families,
different buildings-very possibly, different funding and
curricula, too. Finding the right school might be a big
challenge, but how hard is it really?
We recently held a Twitter chat to dive into those topics.
Our #ewedchat featured Eric Cooper, the president of the
teacher-training-focused National Urban Alliance, and
Danielle Brown, a national-board-certified teacher from
Arizona. While the discussion covered a lot of ground, it's
worth highlighting two questions that dealt explicitly with
how teachers enter and exit schools.
Q: As a new teacher, how much did you know about
the school you ended up at?
Carly Lutzmann: "For me, it was easy to pick up the
routines of my school, but harder to understand and apply
Diana Maskell: "It's hard to 'know' about a school until you
experience it firsthand. Often, what you think you know is
merely another's opinion."
Kim Dunnagan: "When I walked in the door, the two
secretaries greeted me warmly and carried on a pleasant
conversation. That is all I needed!"
National Urban Alliance: "Had to ask the students who
they thought was the best teacher. I went to that teacher and
learned from that teacher."
Q: What factors do teachers consider when deciding
whether or not to leave a school?
Cody Norton: "Are kids and families treated with respect?
Would I ever let my future children attend this school? I said
no & had to leave."
Mr. K!: "Was I happy in the school? The community? Was
there room to grow or had I reached my full potential here?"
Danielle Brown: "Is the district about change & thought
based on student needs. Are school & community focused on
what students need?"
Owl Mt. Coach: "Decision to leave: poor administrative
support and incompetence."
Christine Dahnke: "Feeling empowered, room for growth,
feedback, and visionary leadership."
National Urban Alliance: "Retention plans that ignore
the uniqueness of each teacher have an inherent weakness,
which can also lead to departure."
If none of that sounds new, it's because it really isn't.
Studies have shown that many of the factors mentioned
influence teacher attrition. In a sense, this chat served to
tie anecdote and living educators to a wealth of data and
research on this topic.
But as former educator Rosa Nam wrote in an Education
Week Teacher commentary last year, there's another reason
for teachers' leaving: Sometimes, it's the right thing to do:
"My students deserve a better teacher. In an ideal world,
the folks in charge of educating the youth of America would
be the most passionate, level-headed, mentally stable,
and educated scholars amongst us, but that's like finding
a unicorn. All I know for sure is that teaching can be
Tennessee Online Test Crashes,
Causing Return to Paper and Pencil
| DIGITAL EDUCATION | Tennessee officials have halted
the online administration of the state's assessment after
widespread failures that they attributed to a "procedural
problem with the vendor."
Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen said the
breakdowns occurred on the morning of the first day of
testing, in the first year that the exams were implemented by
a new testing vendor for the state, Measurement Inc.
As the scope of the breakdowns became evident, state
officials directed districts to postpone the exams until paper-
and-pencil versions could be printed and distributed.
According to McQueen, state education department officials
had been working with the Durham, N.C.-based company
since an October "stress test" of the platform to increase
server capacity and fix problems.
State officials said that shortcomings discovered during
that stress test, and ongoing concerns about the stability
of the platform-called Measurement Incorporated Secure
Testing, or MIST-led them to alert districts two weeks ago
that they had the option of testing with paper and pencil.
Then, last week, a new batch of network failures, unrelated
to the issues that officials thought were fixed, forced the state
to require all schools to administer hard copies of the exam.
In a conference call with reporters, McQueen blamed the
vendor for the failures. But she also ultimately said, "When
you are talking about the vendor, you are talking about the
state," and that districts "are absolutely not to blame."
Cliff Lloyd, the department's chief information officer, said
the breakdowns "occurred because of processes kicked off by
the vendor," which led to flooded servers and system failures.
In a statement, Measurement Inc.'s president, Henry
Scherich, voiced confidence in the platform, saying that
Tennessee students took more than 1.1 million practice
assessments in January to get ready for this week's exams.
He added that the company is convinced that the
server-overload problem has been fixed and attributed the
problems some students had logging in to "improper network
utilization, not [platform] functionality."
Disruptions of online assessments have become common
across the country, enraging district leaders, teachers, and
parents, and fueling anti-testing sentiment.
Causes of breakdowns have varied. Recent testing failures
in Kentucky and Florida were later linked to cyberattacks.
Tennessee is one of many states that have embarked on the
transition to online platforms for administering their state
assessments in recent years. Recent analyses, however, have
shown that the format in which students take tests can affect
EDUCATION WEEK | February 17, 2016 | www.edweek.org | 7
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 17, 2016
Education Week - February 17, 2016
Preservice Programs Seek To Head Off Teacher Biases
Black Male Teachers a Rarity
Consolidation Fight Erupts In Vermont
In Cities With Choice, Single- Enrollment Systems Hit Hurdles
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Letting Students Work From Home Adds Policy Twist
News in Brief
Q&A: Principals Urged To ‘Shadow’ Students
Study: Showing Standout Work To Students Can Backfire
U.S. Manages to Reduce Share Of Low PISA Scores— in Science
Blogs of the Week
Lawmakers Pledging to Keep Close Eye on ESSA Implementation
Obama Budget Doubles As Policy Document
Blogs of the Week
Five-State Study Examines Teaching Shifts Under Core
Kansas High Court Strikes Down Stopgap Aid Formula
State of the States
Increased Accountability of Teacher Prep Gives Equity the Back Seat
Self-Care Is the Educator’s Core Standard
Beware the Racist Subtext Of Children’s Books
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Dispatch From Flint, Mich.: Our Water Crisis Is a Crisis of Trust
Education Week - February 17, 2016