Part 3—Disaggregation reveals: Fairly or otherwise, Finland has begun getting bumped from the press corps’ list of “educational powerhouses.”
Don’t get us wrong! At the Atlantic, Julia Ryan still described the Finns that way when she reported the new PISA scores this week. She failed to note that Massachusetts, whose performance she ridiculed, matched the powerhouse Finns in reading and math on the most recent PISA.
(By a fairly modest margin, Finland outscored Massachusetts in science.)
At the Atlantic, Finland is still a “powerhouse.” But in the New York Times, Motoko Rich reported that Finland’s scores had declined, a statement which may be a bit misleading.
(For a start at a hint, click here. Ponder this phrase: “graded on a curve.”)
Meanwhile, how did Politico report the new PISA scores? As she started, Stephanie Simon erased the Finns from the “familiar hierarchy” of the world’s top performers.
Note her peculiar framework:
SIMON (12/3/13): U.S. students continue to perform poorly on international tests, with 15-year-olds scoring in the middle of the global pack on the latest math, reading and science tests administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.Note the oddness of Simon’s basic construction. The United States “scored in the middle of the pack,” she reports. On that basis, Simon says the United States “continued to perform poorly.”
In a familiar hierarchy, Asian countries and regions such as Hong Kong, Japan, Shanghai, Singapore and South Korea topped the rankings for the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, according to results released Tuesday morning.
Script is powerful! Later, though, Simon abandons a script, referring to “the once widely envied Finland, which has lost considerable ground in math.”
Finland has been losing ground in math to the Asian tigers—to actual nations like Korea and Japan, to smaller city-states like Hong Kong and Singapore. That said, it still ranks near the top among the 34 OPEC nations in all three subjects the PISA tests.
For that reason, it’s instructive to see how American scores compare to those of the high-ranking Finns. How do matters look when we “disaggregate” U.S. scores? When we report the scores achieved by different parts of the student population?
Disaggregation can tell us a lot. It’s also extremely painful.
Disaggregation provides a painful look at the continuing backwash of our brutal American history. This may be why so many “liberals” refuse to do it.
For today, we’re going to look at scores from the 2011 TIMSS, continuing the process we started last week. Tomorrow, we’ll perform a bit of disaggregation concerning the new PISA scores.
There are several ways to disaggregate test scores, few of which are ever performed by our nation’s education reporters. Yesterday, we showed you how scores break down by family income on one part of the NAEP, our most reliable domestic testing program.
On the NAEP, kids from higher-income families score much better, on average, than kids from lower-income families. That said:
As far as we know, the National Center for Education Statistics provides no reliable way to disaggregate scores by family income for the TIMSS or the PISA, our major international tests.
The NCES does disaggregate TIMSS scores by race and ethnicity. Here you see a partial breakdown for Grade 8 math:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, 2011 TIMSSOn the 2011 TIMSS, white students in the U.S. outscored educational powerhouse Finland in Grade 8 math. In fact, white student matched or outscored Finland in all four tests that year. For all TIMSS data, start here:
United States, all students: 509
United States, white students only: 530
Average scores, Grade 4 math, 2011 TIMSSWe regard those scores as revealing, instructive. Here’s why:
United States, all students: 541
United States, white students only: 559
Average scores, Grade 4 science, 2011 TIMSS
United States, all students: 544
United States, white students only: 568
Average scores, Grade 8 science, 2011 TIMSS
United States, all students: 525
United States, white students only: 553
Finland is a small, largely unicultural nation. It has very few immigrant kids. Beyond that, Finland never created a despised minority which it brutalized for centuries.
To its eternal credit!
Almost all students in Finland are from the country’s majority culture. In the scores we’ve posted above, students from this country’s majority culture match or outscore the Finns in all four parts of the TIMSS.
Frankly, we find those scores surprising. Among our sprawling nation’s white student population, there is almost surely more poverty than there is among the Finns. Beyond that, we have fairly large regional pockets of anti-intellectualism.
Despite that, the numbers are what you see. For Grade 8 math, here’s the way white students scored in the nine states which participated in the 2011 TIMSS as independent entities:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, 2011 TIMSSIn eight of the nine states which took part as independent entities, white students—students from the majority culture—outscored Finland in Grade 8 math. In states like Massachusetts, North Carolina, Minnesota, they outscored Finland by rather large margins.
(For all American states, scores are by white students only)
North Carolina 563
(Finland, all students 514)
Here’s why we think this is revealing:
For the past twelve years, every ninny and his unstable uncle has flown off to miraculous Finland on the company dime. Emerging from their Helsinki hotels, these people tried to spot the miraculous, secret practices in Finland’s miraculous schools.
Test scores like those shown above suggest an obvious conclusion—there are no miraculous practices in Finland’s public schools! Within our own much-maligned schools, children from the majority culture are actually outscoring Finland.
Our schools could be much better, of course, in a wide range of ways. (Apparently, so could Finland’s.) They could do a better job teaching math. They could do a better job helping children discover the joy of the search.
They could do a better job creating a nation of avid readers. They could do a better job channeling the natural desire of children to serve, to engage.
But for children from the majority culture—for children who speak the language; for children who didn’t arrive in the country last week; for children who don’t belong to a despised minority which was brutalized for hundreds of years; for children whose sacred ancestors weren’t denied the right to know how to read by force of extremely brutal law—
Among children like those, our schools are routinely outscoring Finland! And those children constitute a substantial majority of our student population. This is not some tricked-out statistical sliver we have slickly dislodged.
Our schools’ biggest shortfalls involve the children who aren’t from that “majority culture.” And we’re sorry, but you can’t fly off to Helsinki to learn how to serve those deserving, delightful, beautiful children.
Finland has no comparable parts to its student population! It hasn’t had to solve the educational puzzle our benighted ancestors created.
Let’s be clear. Even within our majority culture, our schools are not outscoring Korea. Korean kids averaged 613 on that Grade 8 TIMSS math test.
Tomorrow, though, we’re going to show you how other parts of our student population scored on those TIMSS tests. How do we address the shortfalls reflected in those statistics, which are sometimes extremely painful?
It’s constantly amazing to see how little we “liberals” seem to care about that. Also, to see how little our “educational experts” seem to know or care.
Tomorrow: More disaggregation
Coming: Ripley, Goldstein and the “experts” on the practice of “tracking.” Also, the Common Core