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Thu Jan 17, 2013, 04:41 AM

 

What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance?

Note: The international tests you hear about in the media are TIMMS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) & PISA (Program for International Student Assessment). The criticism by these analysts, which focuses mainly on socioeconomic differences in the national samples (only a small sample of students in each country is tested), is probably the major reason that global comparisons of the results are suspect -- but not the only reason.

The authors note that both TIMMS & PISA data include not only average national scores, but also a database "from which analysts can disaggregate test scores by students' social and economic characteristics, their school composition, and other informative criteria," which can lead to different conclusions than those suggested from the average national scores.

The bullet points are from an analysis of the 2009 PISA data. Their general conclusion was:

Because social class inequality is greater in the United States than in any of the countries with which we can reasonably be compared, the relative performance of U.S. adolescents is better than it appears when countries’ national average performance is conventionally compared.

***

*Because in every country, students at the bottom of the social class distribution perform worse than students higher in that distribution, U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.

*A sampling error...resulted in students from the most disadvantaged schools being over-represented in the overall U.S. test-taker sample. This error further depressed the reported average U.S. test score.

*If U.S. adolescents had a social class distribution that was similar to the distribution in countries to which the United States is frequently compared, average reading scores in the United States would be higher than average reading scores in the similar post-industrial countries we examined (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), and average math scores in the United States would be about the same as average math scores in similar post-industrial countries.

*A re-estimated U.S. average PISA score that adjusted for a student population in the United States that is more disadvantaged than populations in otherwise similar post-industrial countries, and for the over-sampling of students from the most-disadvantaged schools in a recent U.S. international assessment sample, finds that the U.S. average score in both reading and mathematics would be higher than official reports indicate (in the case of mathematics, substantially higher)...

*This re-estimate would also improve the U.S. place in the international ranking of all OECD countries, bringing the U.S. average score to fourth in reading and 10th in math (v. 14th in reading and 25th in math.)

*Disadvantaged and lower-middle-class U.S. students perform better (and in most cases, substantially better) than comparable students in similar post-industrial countries in reading. In math, disadvantaged and lower-middle-class U.S. students perform about the same as comparable students in similar post-industrial countries.


http://www.epi.org/publication/us-student-performance-testing/


The authors also note that:

1. Trends over time show low SES kids in the US improving their relative scores in both reading & math, while scores for high SES kids have been stagnant. "U.S. policy discussion assumes that most of problems of the U.S. education system are concentrated in schools serving disadvantaged children. Trends in PISA scores suggest that the opposite may be the case."

2. Different international & domestic tests are sometimes inconsistent, & this needs to be examined.

3. Kids in the highest SES US group perform as well as their international peers in reading, including the top scoring countries, but below their international peers in math.

4. Kids in the lowest SES group perform better in reading than peer countries UK, France & Germany in reading but worse than kids in the three top-scoring countries (Canada, Finland, Korea).

5. Low SES students do about the same, or better in math than kids in Germany, UK, France, but not as well as low SES students in the three top-scoring countries.

6. In comparison with the three top-scoring countries (Canada, Finland, Korea), US students in all social classes do worse in math.

7. Caution should be used in interpretation of any single year's results & policy prescriptions: For example, while Finland is a top scorer, scores for its lowest SES students have been declining relatively over time.

8. US low-SES students' performance in both math & reading has improved more than their peers in any country but Germany. Scores of similar students in all countries but Germany have declined.


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HiPointDem Jan 2013 OP
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Fri Jan 18, 2013, 12:47 AM

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Fri Jan 18, 2013, 12:49 AM

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