Today marks the release of the PISA 2009 assessment results. And just what is PISA:
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an internationally standardised assessment that was jointly developed by participating economies and administered to 15-year-olds in schools.
Tests are typically administered to between 4,500 and 10,000 students in each country.
And just what does PISA look at?
PISA assesses how far students near the end of compulsory education have acquired some of the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in society. In all cycles, the domains of reading, mathematical and scientific literacy are covered not merely in terms of mastery of the school curriculum, but in terms of important knowledge and skills needed in adult life.
PISA, has absolutely become the World Cup of education excellence. Over the last three years I have spoken to, hosted, and toured groups from around the world who specifically came to British Columbia to understand our high results. Of course, the interest in Finland can also be traced directly to these assessments. Finland has become education’s equivalent of soccer’s Brazil.
On the previously released results, Canada, and in particular Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, have performed among the very top performing jurisdictions in the world alongside Finland, Hong Kong and Korea (here is a summary of 2006 results). Since education is under provincial jurisdiction in Canada, our results are further broken out by province, while other jurisdictions are typically by country. The PISA results are the often used antidote against those who question the quality of education in British Columbia and Canada. We have a system looking to improve, but we are improving from a place of strength, and envy from around the world.
Today is announcement day. There is a lot to dig into beyond the headlines, but my quick read indicates:
- Korea and Finland are the top performing OECD countries, but Shanghai-China (a first time participant) outperforms them by a significant margin
- Girls outperform boys in reading in every participating country
- Canadian students continue to be near the top of OECD countries
- British Columbia students perform above Canadian averages
- Since 2000, British Columbia results have improved in science and declined in math and reading
From the OECD Press Release this morning, here are a few more key items they highlight:
• The best school systems were the most equitable — students do well regardless of their socio-economic background. However, schools that select students based on ability, show the greatest differences in performance by socio-economic background.
• High-performing school systems tend to prioritize teacher pay over smaller class sizes.
• Countries where students repeat grades more often tend to have worse results overall, with the widest gaps between children from poor and better-off families. Making students repeat years is most common in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain.
• High-performing systems allow schools to design curricula and establish assessment policies, but don’t necessarily allow competition for students.
• Schools with good discipline and better student-teacher relations, achieve better reading results.
• Public and private schools achieve similar results, after taking account of their home backgrounds.
• Combining local autonomy and effective accountability seems to produce the best results.
• The percentage of students who said they read for pleasure dropped from 69% in 2000, to 64% in 2009.
There is much more to dissect, and there is a lot of excellent data produced going deeper into the rankings, which will garner much of the attention. PISA 2009 results are available here and the Executive Summary (a very good read) is available here. Ontario has also released a summary of its results including a series of tables listing all Canadian provinces available here.
As the results are further examined, there is a lot to consider when looking at jurisdictions that have undergone major reform initiatives, and how this has translated into results. A quick read indicates Ontario will likely be getting a lot of attention for its efforts in coming days.
Update: This link (here) is a summary of the results from Stats Canada.