Interlude—Andreas the Giant: Doggone it! The government shutdown has shut down the data we planned to use today as we discussed an important part of Amanda Ripley’s new book, The Smartest Kids in the World.
For more, see yesterday's post.
Ripley’s book is well written and very interesting. We also think it’s an amazing example of a type of new journalism, in which “Nordic robots” repeat preferred narratives which come from ranking elites.
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss a group of invisible children—a bunch of kids who get disappeared in Ripley’s book. But then, why shouldn’t those kids get disappeared? In the course of 230 pages, the TIMSS, the PIRLS and the NAEP all get disappeared too!
If we may borrow from our Shelley, only the PISA remains!
We don’t know when we’ve seen a book where so much data gets disappeared in service to preferred narrative. That doesn’t mean the book is all wrong. It means it’s a piece of work!
Jay Mathews called Ripley “a talented writer.” For today, you might scan her profile of Andreas Schleicher, the PISA’s inventor. The profile was published by the Atlantic in 2011.
Tomorrow, we’ll start with one part of that profile as we search for invisible kids.
What kinds of questions get asked on the PISA: Faithfully pushing a preferred narrative, Ripley says in her book that the PISA is “a smarter test” than other international tests, which she doesn't even name. On this basis, she simply ignores the data which come from the TIMSS and the PIRLS.
Is the PISA a smarter test? In 2009, Mathews wrote a blog post entitled, “Test that makes U.S. look bad may not be so good.” He started with a question from the PISA, a test which is designed to measure “creative thinking:”
MATHEWS (10/19/09): Politicians and pundits are using results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests to say our kids are falling behind the rest of the world, so maybe we should get some PISA practice. Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless, a member of the U.S. advisory board to PISA, offered this sample question for 15 year olds from the mathematics literacy section of the exam:That’s only one question from the PISA; there was more to Mathews’ post. Still: How sure do you feel that the PISA is “smarter” when you see a question like that?
For a rock concert a rectangular field of size 100 m by 50 m was reserved for the audience. The concert was completely sold out and the field was full with all the fans standing. Which one of the following is likely to be the best estimate of the total number of people attending the concert?
I think this is a bad question, and not just because I got it wrong. I said 5,000. The answer is 20,000. I don’t see why deciding four people, not one, would fit better in a square meter is a sign of math literacy. There are some people I don't like to get close to at concerts.
Loveless, an expert on international testing, agrees that the problem was ill-chosen. “I think it would throw kids off,” he said. “The math is rather trivial.”
Opinions differed in comments to Mathews’ post, which we found surprising. We’ll restate our basic stance:
If there are three major sources of data, it's silly to disregard two of those sources in service to preferred narrative. Presumably, the PISA data are worth reviewing. Presumably, so are the data from the TIMSS and the PIRLS.