Brookings study gives thumbs down to European test

By: By LIBBY QUAID, AP Education Writer
By: By LIBBY QUAID, AP Education Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - When it comes to measuring U.S. students against kids around the world, the National Governors Association and other groups have encouraged states to look at a European test used in 57 other countries.

But after scrutinizing the exam, the Brookings Institution has concluded it's seriously flawed.

The governors have urged states to compare the performance of American schoolchildren against tests including the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA. The idea is to borrow their best ideas to move American students forward in the global arena.

The Brookings study, however, says the PISA test goes beyond learning to measure values and beliefs. For example, asks students whether they favor laws that protect the habitats of endangered species. And it asks if children favor electricity from renewable sources and regulation of factory emissions.

"These are political judgments," said Tom Loveless, the study's author. "For me as a citizen, before I would agree or disagree with any of them, I'd need to know more about them."

Along with test results, the Paris-based group that runs PISA issues dozens of policy recommendations, ranging from testing and accountability to school choice and universal pre-kindergarten. But Loveless pointed out several instances in which the group ignored data that contradict its recommendations.

And he noted the PISA test, which is given in high school, is not tied to school curriculum. That means PISA doesn't measure what schools teach; it measures real-world application, or what kids can do after schools have taught them.

That stands in contrast to the United States' National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, often called the nation's report card, which is tied to curriculum. Another international test, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, also is tied to curriculum.

Loveless is a representative to the group that administers TIMSS and is on the U.S. advisory board for PISA.

He called on the governors and other groups not to rely on PISA to measure U.S. students.

"I don't believe they've done their homework," Loveless said. "PISA is inappropriate to be used as a benchmark, until these errors are addressed."

A National Governors Association official, education director Dane Linn, said the group does not favor PISA over other tests. But Linn said it should at least be considered.

"It's a little hard to ignore PISA when we have those countries representing 90 percent of the world's economies taking the test," Linn said.

The group has also recommended that states use other tests, such as TIMSS, to compare students. It formed an advisory group to make recommendations on the quality of states' academic standards and a range of other issues.

The group that runs PISA, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, called the Brookings study disingenuous. Andreas Schleicher, who directs PISA, said it's important to see how students use what they learn.

"You can ask yourself what service school is doing to students if they cannot transfer what they have learned in school to real-life contexts," Schleicher said.

Schleicher also said children's beliefs are measured separately from knowledge and skills.

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On the Net:
Brookings Institution: http://www.brookings.edu/
Programme for International Student Assessment: http://www.pisa.oecd.org/


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