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The Purpose of PISA

This week, we will learn the 2012 results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), taken by 15 year-old students from all over the world. If 2009 is any judge, no one really expects the United States to catapult to the top of the list of participating countries, but 2012 results are guaranteed to indicate how much work we have to do in improving education.

In 2009, US students scored only in the “average” category in reading, below countries like Finland, Canada, Japan, Poland and Iceland. Thirty-one jurisdictions outperformed the U.S in mathematics.

But before examining 2012 scores, it’s important to know why PISA was created in the first place. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the group that administers PISA, test results are intended to show where countries stand, and motivate policymakers to identify shortcomings and remedy them with proper reforms.

The central finding based on PISA has been that students around the world, regardless of economic situation or cultural background, have the potential to learn when given the opportunity.

This coincides seamlessly with the need to create environments where parents are given access and options to schools, and to ensure schools are accountable to boosting student outcomes. When children are placed in the environment that’s right for them, their ability to learn and prepare themselves for the world beyond secondary education increases exponentially. (Which is why it’s critical for parents to know what options are available to them, and why we’ve created the Parent Power Index.)

What good is the fixation on how the United States stacks up against other countries if it’s not followed up by introspection and action?

This year, it’s paramount that policymakers, members of the media, and legislators identify the challenges facing our education system, and enact the necessary reforms to overcome them.

When the 2015 results come out, we’ll know whether things remain business as usual when it comes to education in America. And while we’ve certainly moved the reform needle in the last 20 years, we know there is much work to be done still.  Make it your New Year’s Resolution to take action and help better education in America – start by seeing how much power parents have in your state, and contact us for more ways to help!



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