PISA, or the Programme for International Student Assessment- scores came out yesterday, showing very little progress for US students compared to students in other countries. You can even try sample questions here: http://www.oecd.org/pisa/test/
The results of the tests can be found here:
The conversation that was happening between education officials from across the Country on the PISA Day site was pretty interesting, and the videos are going to be released for later viewing. Some of the videos are available now:
Like any standardized test of knowledge, I think we have to ask what the group was trying to measure, and what do the scores really mean. PISA is supposed to be about having kids apply their background knowledge to real world problems, rather than mere multiple choice questions, which is a large part of most assessments given in this country. This raises the question about whether we're doing a good job, at least with today's 15 year olds, of teaching them to apply "book learning" to authentic problems, or are we merely just asking them to recognize the right answer out of a field of answers- which requires a much shallower type of learning, but one we seem to hold important.
I hope that the emphasis on more critical thinking and problem solving skills, emphasized in the Common Core Standards will help make this deeper thinking and application of knowledge to new circumstances part of our kid's educational DNA over time. The question remains, however, if using yearly standardized testing, especially the multiple choice variety, is the best or even a valid way of testing student understanding and mastery, and if not, what do we do in its place?
What do you think? What is the best way to measure student learning, and also benchmark that learning against other students, other Districts, Other States, and Other Countries? How much measuring is important? When should this drive change, and when should we hold steady, knowing that change is already underway, but may not yet be measured by the instrument we're using?