You're only told about two: Propaganda is often about the things you aren't allowed to know.
With that in mind, let's return to Amanda Ripley's recent report in the New York Times about last year's Pisa.
Public school students in the world's developed nations take part in two different sets of international tests—the Pisa and the Timss. Ripley disappears the Timss, only mentions the Pisa.
In her recent report for the Times, she followed the standard "ed reform" line. In this passage, she mentioned a wonderful "handful of places" which help put the U.S. to shame:
RIPLEY (12/8/16): For now, the PISA reveals brutal truths about America's education system: Math, a subject that reliably predicts children's future earnings, continues to be the United States' weakest area at every income level. Nearly a third of American 15-year-olds are not meeting a baseline level of ability—the lowest level the O.E.C.D. believes children must reach in order to thrive as adults in the modern world.Ripley's report was the New York Times' only report about last year's Pisa and Timss. (She never mentioned the Timss.)
And affluence 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.
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.
As we noted in an earlier post, we have no idea why Denmark was listed among that "handful of places" (data below). For today, let's focus on little Estonia, which is now clearly being sold as "the New Finland."
Let's also focus on Finland itself, which, for the past fifteen years, has been sold as a public school superpower. And let's focus on a third place. Let's focus on Massachusetts, whose population (6.8 million) matches that of tiny Estonia and little Finland combined.
We've all been propagandized for years concerning miraculous Finland. It's now clear that tiny Estonia is the new international sell.
We want to give you a fuller look at the way Massachusetts students have performed as compared to their peers in those other places, which may well have excellent schools. As we do, we're hoping to help you see what propaganda looks like.
Massachusetts participated in last year's Pisa as an independent entity. Below, you see the way its students scored as compared to those in Estonia and Finland.
According to Ripley, 39 points on the Pisa scale is equal to one academic year. We're including scores for Massachusetts' white students for reasons we've explained many times, and will explain again down below:
Average scores, Pisa 2015In science literacy and reading literacy, the scores are basically the same. Using Ripley's rule of thumb, Massachusetts is about a half-year behind Estonia in math literacy.
Massachusetts, white students: 546
Massachusetts, white students: 540
Massachusetts, white students: 514
The Bay State's white students—the state's "majority culture" kids—outscored their peers in these ballyhooed lands in both science and reading. We offer this comparison because, in Finland and Estonia, the students are pretty much all "majority culture" kids.
Those were the results on last year's Pisa. That said, U.S. kids tend to do better on the Timss, the test Ripley disappears.
Massachusetts took the Timss as an independent entity in 2011. This is the way its scores compared to those from Finland. Estonia didn't take part:
Average scores, Timss 2011Estonia took the Timss only once, in 2003. (The Timss is administered every four years.) Here's what their scores looked like:
Grade 8 math:
Massachusetts, white students: 572
Grade 8 science:
Massachusetts, white students: 587
Average scores, Estonia, Timss 2003Massachusetts participated as an independent entity for the first time in 2007. These were the Bay State scores:
Grade 8 math: 531
Grade 8 science: 552
Average scores, Massachusetts, Timss 2007Massachusetts is bigger than Finland. It's five times Estonia's size.
Grade 8 math: 547
Grade 8 science: 556
Its demographics are more challenging, but it has performed at least as well as these storied locales on the world's international tests. But, for whatever reason, you're not allowed to know that. Our education experts fly from Logan, eager to learn from that handful of places located Over There.
Bay State scores are disappeared. There's a word for this practice, which is quite uniform. It looks to us like propaganda, of the ed reform kind.
There's something quite average in Denmark: In the New York Times, Ripley talked up Denmark. She said it's one of "a handful of places" which are proving that we can "do much better."
We have no idea why. These were Denmark's average scores on last year's Pisa:
Average scores, Denmark, Pisa 2015Why was Ripley peddling Denmark? We don't have the slightest idea. You will have to tell us!
Science literacy: 502
Reading literacy: 500
Math literacy: 511