Accountability

PISA: It’s Still ‘Poverty Not Stupid’

PISA: It’s Still ‘Poverty Not Stupid’

Editor’s Note: This is an update of a previous post on the relationship between PISA scores and poverty. Although these figures relate to 2009 scores, little has changed. The U.S. is still in the middle of the pack when compared to other participating nations. Walt Gardner of Education Week and Diane Ravitch have provided similar analysis of more recent PISA scores.

PISA results have provided ample fodder for public school bashers and doomsayers who further their own philosophies and agendas by painting all public schools as failing. For whatever reason, the pundits, many of whom have had little or no actual exposure to public schools, refuse to paint an accurate picture of the state of education.

A closer look at the data tells a different story. Most notable is the relationship between PISA scores in terms of individual American schools and poverty.  While the overall PISA rankings ignore such differences in the tested schools, when groupings based on the rate of free and reduced lunch are created, a direct relationship is established.

Free and Reduced Meal Rate PISA Score
Schools with < 10% 551
Schools with 10-24.9% 527
Schools with 25-49.9% 502
Schools with 49.9-74.9% 471
Schools with >75% 446
U.S. average 500
OECD average 493 

With strong evidence that increased poverty results in lower PISA scores the next question to be asked is (more…)

PISA Results: Good, Bad and Ugly

By Stuart A. Singer, author of The Algebra Miracle

The latest numbers from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) have been released and not surprisingly the handwringing began before the ink was dry. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan used the word “stagnation” in his appraisal. Others were even more pessimistic. On the surface the performance of the U.S. students was dreadful. There was little joy to be found in being ranked 20th in reading, 23rd in Science and 30th in mathematics among the sixty-five tested groups. All of these results were either the same or worse than the previous test three years ago.

Fortunately a more careful analysis of the statistics revealed that some of the worst case scenario conclusions were misleading.

The scoring was hardly comparing apples to apples. In many cases it was not even apples to oranges. Contrasting the U.S. scores to those coming out of Singapore which had the best in the world was more like apples to aged Kobe beef. Singapore is a city not an entire country. Making the outcome even murkier was that low performing students and their families are often sent elsewhere in order to maintain the city’s lofty status. It was the equivalent of taking the highest scoring school district in America and claiming it represented the achievement level in all fifty states.

The bad

But before anyone begins chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A” the numbers coming out of PISA are worthy of deep concern. When Latvia and Viet Nam rank above you in measurements of academic prowess there is little room for rejoicing. The United States spends huge sums of money on education in comparison to many of the countries that performed (more…)

Do Schools Need a ‘Support Report?’

In a recent article “If Schools Issue Report Cards, Should Students Issue Support Cards?” Kent Pekel of the Search Institute reminds school leaders that “by June, our nation’s elementary and secondary schools will have cumulatively issued more than 100 million of those report cards, each of which will describe and evaluate how well students are meeting the expectations that teachers and schools have set for them.”

Pekel goes on to point out:

“Very few of those students, in contrast, will have the opportunity to describe and evaluate the kind and caliber of support they receive to help them meet those expectations. That imbalance should concern us because studies suggest that young people are most likely to achieve difficult objectives if they experience a mix of both challenge and support. If educators don’t ask how supported young people feel in an organized and ongoing way, they have nothing against which to calibrate the levels of challenge they expect young people to embrace and overcome.”

Here are some key points for school leaders to ponder:

Teacher Effectiveness – The MET Project revealed that (more…)

More than just numbers

By Stuart A. Singer, Author of The Algebra Miracle

Perhaps because I am a former math teacher I cannot help myself. Maybe my extensive coaching background is what makes it even more compelling. Regardless of the precise motivator the fundamental conclusion seems so obvious.

Education needs to utilize data analysis more effectively.

Stats are bursting out all over

Data analysis can be a powerful tool for innovation in a multitude of endeavors. It can illuminate the path to better outcomes and accurately affirm success and failure. It is not, however, a static process. In order to maximize its effectiveness constant reevaluation is required. Otherwise conclusions made based on statistics can quickly become inaccurate and irrelevant.

One powerful example of such numerical evolution was evident in the aftermath of the gubernatorial election in Virginia. When the final results had been tabulated several newscasts explained the victory in these terms—the Democrat won the women’s vote by a larger margin than the Republican won the men’s. From there the speculation became focused on what specific issues had caused this “gender gap”.

But a day later another set of numbers presented a significantly different perspective. When one statistician divided the same voters into the category of either “married” or “unmarried” new conclusions emerged. A majority of married men and married women favored the GOP; unmarried men and women did not. Suddenly, because of these numbers the conversation and potential suppositions veered in a very different direction.

Similar numerical adjustments are occurring in the world of sports. A recent article in the Washington Post explained that the Nationals new baseball manager Matt Williams based a large portion of his improvement plan on the introduction of something new to the organization—data analysis. The plan is basic. An individual will be hired who will filter through the statistics provided (more…)

Attendance is a Two Sided Affair

By Stuart A. Singer, author of The Algebra Miracle

This is the second of three posts on student attendance and classroom disruptions from the perspective of the classroom teacher. Part three will address the issue of field trips and attendance.

Sometimes teacher training must take a backseat.

In an excellent three-part series Mel Riddile created a substantial argument for the direct correlation between good attendance and academic success. No teacher would disagree with this premise. 

In one blog Dr. Riddile referenced the various responsibilities required of the states, courts, districts and schools in ensuring that students attend on a regular basis. Another outlined the strategies he employed as a principal which resulted in significant improvements at the school.

An offer that can be refused

Educating requires life-long learning. When speaking to new teachers I would always share one comment. “Every year whether it was my second, twenty-second, thirty-second or fortieth, I was making adjustments to my teaching. It is never a finished product and anyone who thinks they know it all is wrong.” I began my career with ditto machines, trig charts, pointing sticks and a typewriter. Along the way I acquired Xerox machines that would print (more…)

Education is a True Team Game

By Stuart A. Singer, author of The Algebra Miracle

While some people might dismiss the importance of creating the proper mindset within a school’s faculty as critical for improving academic success, the outcome of this year’s World Series may help change that misperception.

That victory by the Boston Red Sox was good for baseball. One of the sport’s most storied franchises had waited 95 years to win a championship on its home field. It was an emotional boost for a city that has endured so much pain at the hands of terrorists. And it was great fun for the casual fan to watch a group of men who looked like characters from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy celebrating their title-clinching victory like a group of excited little boys.

But for education this Boston team could also serve as a model for success.

A little bit of historical background

In 2012 the owners of the Red Sox spent huge amounts of money on a team filled with superstar talents and a big name flamboyant manager. They watched that group crash and burn finishing in last place. The next season, with more than $2500 million of “great” players discarded, a number of unknowns taking the field on a (more…)

The Hidden Attendance Problems

By Stuart A. Singer, author of The Algebra Miracle

This is the first of three posts on student attendance and classroom disruptions from the perspective of the classroom teacher. Part two will address the issue out-of-school teacher training and the third will discuss field trips.

Some attendance problems are self-inflicted.

In an excellent three-part series Mel Riddile created a substantial argument for the direct correlation between good attendance and academic success. No teacher would disagree with this premise. To this point he began his second article with a quote from my book:

“Successful teaching cannot begin until students are regularly attending class.”

In one blog Dr. Riddile referenced the various responsibilities required of the states, courts, districts and schools in ensuring that students attend on a regular basis. Another outlined the strategies he employed as a principal which resulted in significant improvements at the school.

While every item mentioned was critical to achieving the goal of improved attendance there is another area of major concern that needs to be addressed in much greater detail.

Absenteeism can take many forms

Before continuing a few realities concerning the sanctity of the school day need to be addressed. A stream of distractions, interruptions and diversions to the traditional day are both inevitable and in many cases (more…)

States accelerate shift in student testing. The good, the bad, and the ugly!

As reported in the L.A. Times, “in a major shift in how California’s 6.2 million public school students are taught and tested, state officials plan to drop the standardized exams used since 1999 and replace them with a computerized system next spring.”

The Good

California (and other states) are eliminating “double testing” and moving up the timetable for the new Common Core computerized tests by a year. This means more “at bats” for students and more feedback for teachers.

The Bad

Until now, state standardized tests (in some states) were conducted entirely with pencil and paper. Transitioning from paper and pencil tests to computerized assessments is a huge undertaking. Some states have taken the better part of a decade to make this shift. While there are many advantages to online assessments, making this transition in one year ensures that there will be glitches in the testing process. Experience tells us that school leaders should prepare themselves for every eventuality.

The Ugly

Schools must have enough computers available on each campus to handle the testing. For example. Oklahoma recently announced that the state would not/could not participate in the PARCC assessments because only 15% of OK schools had sufficient hardware and infrastructure.

The Bottom Line

Behind virtually every failure in education we find the best intentions coupled with poor implementation. There is no lack of great ideas or programs. There is, however, an absence of effective implementation.

See on www.latimes.com