Thursday, 11 April 2013

What Works..?

PISA [Program for International Student Assessment] is an OECD initiative that occurs triennially. PISA focuses upon assessing the capacity of students to problem solve, as well as apply their knowledge and skills in new ways. PISA also differs from many mass-produced tests that are administered by national or state jurisdictions, as they do not seek to assess the learning of any one particular curriculum.
Given these traits, it is a little more difficult to artificially improve PISA achievement via sheer familiarisation with test formats, conditions and content, as can be the case with many mass-produced tests... 

A significant point about the information derived from PISA is that it shines a light on equity, putting it on equal footing, in terms of importance, with actual achievement. This tends to be another point of difference with most standardised tests, which don't usually put as much emphasis or do as good a job of measuring how equitable our schools and education systems are.

Probably the main purpose of PISA is to enable analysis of how different countries structure their education systems and, importantly, to help identify some of the practices, structures and policies that show up as common among the systems that demonstrate high achievement and high equity. In the clip below, Andreas Schleicher goes into detail about this:

So what are the common traits of high-performing, highly-equitable education systems..?

  • Government and society value education, schools and teachers.
  • A growth, rather than fixed mindset, permeates through the system - policy makers, parents, teachers and students believe that all students are capable of learning, rather than lowering expectations based upon demographics and stereotypes... 
  • Schools and teachers in such systems "embrace diversity with differentiated pedagogical practices... and they personalise learning... "
  • "Nowhere does the quality of an education system exceed the quality of it's teachers" - teachers, themselves, as well as systems, value and prioritise ongoing Professional Learning.
  • "Teachers work together".
  • Teachers have professional autonomy - they are clear about where they need to go and what they need to aim for, but they are trusted to choose the ways and methods of pursuing these standards and goals, in order to best meet the needs of their unique local contexts. They are not robots on a production line and they do not 'follow' heavily-prescribed programs and curriculum documents.
  • Further to the above point, high-performing systems have moved away from past goals of standardisation and compliance, to empowering principals and teachers to be inventive, innovative and creative.
  • Honing in on the equity aspect, systems with low disparity between their highest and lowest achievers "invest resources where they can make the most difference, they attract the strongest principals into the toughest schools and the most talented teachers into the most challenging schools."
What [if any... ] are the excuses for not prioritising these traits of high-performing and highly-equitable education systems..?


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