What propaganda looks like: We've begun reviewing the 2015 Pisa scores. We may start to discuss them next week, or we may wait till the new year.
That said, we were struck by a familiar old point as we reread Amanda Ripley's December 8 news report in the New York Times.
Is this what propaganda looks like? Ripley was discussing some of the "handful of places" around the world which have "created brilliance," to borrow an earlier phrase:
RIPLEY (12/8/16): [A]ffluence is no guarantee of better results, particularly in science and math: The latest PISA data (which includes private-school students) shows that America’s most advantaged teenagers scored below their well-off peers in science in 20 other countries, including Canada and Britain.It's clear now that Estonia has in fact been selected as "the new Finland." Much of what you read in mainstream reports is simply recycled script dictated by the Pisa honchos.
The good news is that a handful of places, including Estonia, Canada, Denmark and Hong Kong, are proving that it is possible to do much better. These places now educate virtually all their children to higher levels of critical thinking in math, reading and science—and do so more equitably than Americans do.
That said, tiny Estonia did score quite well on last year's Pisa. But so did a larger place of which you may have heard:
We refer to Massachusetts.
In population, Massachusetts is five times Estonia's size (6.8 million v. 1.3 million). For various reasons, its student population involves the kind of demographic challenges Estonia's pretty much doesn't.
Here's what you won't read in the Times. In science and reading, Massachusetts matched Estonia's scores. It fell short only in math. Estonia scored at the top of the world in science and reading—but so did Massachusetts.
(To access all scores, click here.)
When Massachusetts participated as an independent entity in the 2011 Timss, it scored near the top of the world in both science and math. In reading and science, it has now performed near the top of the world on the 2015 Pisa.
You won't read such things in the Times. The Times, which has now disappeared the Timss, seems to be giving you only such news as it's desirable for you to hear.
Massachusetts is bigger and closer to home. Except for reasons of propaganda, why can't the public be told?
Meanwhile, what's the story with Denmark: Denmark didn't score especially well on last year's Pisa at all. In reading and science, its scores are statistically indistinguishable from the United States as a whole.
It scored near the middle in science and reading, did somewhat better in math. What makes it one of that "handful of places?"
We have no idea. King Andreas said?