WHERE THE TEST SCORES ARE: Series to resume!


Previous report in this series

Series resumes tomorrow: Starting tomorrow, we'll be resuming our ongoing series, Where the Test Scores Are.

In the third week of the series, we looked at the way Americans students have performed, as compared to the rest of the world, on the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS), one of the two international testing programs in which most developed nations participate. In this week's reports, we'll examine the way American students have performed on the other major testing testing program—the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

We'll be starting with a quick review of our basic finding to date about the international achievement gaps. More precisely, we'll start by restating this basic point:

If you look at American scores on the TIMSS, it's hard to support the claim that American schools are an embarrassing mess as compared to those in the rest of the world.

That said, American students haven't scored as well on the PISA. This week, we'll review the international "achievement gaps" on that second major testing program, and we'll "disaggregate" American scores, letting us see how different groups of American students perform on both the TIMSS and the PISA.

All this week, we'll do something else. We'll focus on The Smartest Kids in the World, an influential book by Amanda Ripley which appeared in 2013.

In her critically-acclaimed book, Ripley engaged in some of the selective reporting practices which have tended to mislead the public about international achievement gaps. We'll focus on those sleights of hand as we see how different groups of American students have performed on both the TIMSS and the PIRLS as compared to their peers in the rest of the world.

How have different groups of American students performed on the PISA? How have they performed as compared to South Korea, Japan, Taiwan? As compared to miraculous Finland? As compared to larger non-Asian nations?

Ripley's slippery sleights of hand succeeded in confusing some very basic issues. Our work this week will clarify some basic points, and will lead to our final week of reports in this ongoing series.

Starting tomorrow: Where the PISA Gaps Are

Next week: Where the Challenges Are

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