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Education in My Country: Summaries and Reflections

February 3, 2014 Dr. Fred Mednick INTRODUCTION TO GLOBAL URBAN EDUCATION: Spring 2014
Hi Everyone, Great posts - thank you! I have been asked many times to summarize the posts. Since you are so good to each other and are responding so robustly, I believe this will help you a great deal. I will, of course, respond as much as I can to individual posts. I am so pleased that we have some real critical mass here for lively discussions. Incidentally, we will probably have enough people to form groups (for Session 5). In the meantime, here are some reflections on your wonderful posts (in an attached file, sent to you via email, and embedded below): Deep concern about the PISA test itself (for amping up stakes on testing as the true measure of performance - individual, regional, national, or global) Depression or joy by ones countrys scores Some saw the PISA test as an unfair judgment, while others viewed is as a diagnostic Others were concerned that the same size was too low or whole countries were excluded (in fact, 34% are included). Still others were concerned about the validity of the data, particularly the correlation between results and socio-economic standing, access to education, or after-school tutoring The inherent bias in a test that test-taking skills with academic achievement Public vs. private education and the influence on test results Then psychological affect (false sense of security, deep injury - both) of the tests on students and their families The dangerously obsessive use of the PISA as a form of education commodification that places arbitrary performance over dinnertime

conversation, Scrabble, the ability to solve problems or to engage in the inherent joy and value of ideas The use of PISA tests as a political football or policy posture or yet another opportunity to blame teachers and schools (for what they are not doing) instead of looking at confronting the overall failure of society to embrace learning as a priority The role that exemplars like Finland play n all of this, clearly defying the more is better syndrome The false emphasis on the tests rather than fundamental, pressing issues of access, enrollment numbers, college completion rates, economic security, well-being, equity, dignity, and teacher professional development The disconnect between PISA and the Millennium Development Goals

Last year, incidentally, I was on a panel with Andreas Schleicher (OECDs education lead and supervisor of the PISA) several months ago, right when we were studying PISA and TIMSS. Soon afterward, a report critiquing the PISAs data collection and reporting circulated, and Mr. Schleicher responded. Heres the link to the BBCs Bad loser accusation on doubters of PISA school tests. This past December, I was also lucky enough to be on a panel with Finlands director of curriculum who did not gloat over Finlands success. She also didnt say that she knows it is a rarefied example. While I have always been suspicious of the degree to which we make uninformed decisions about what education to import or export, I was floored by the example they set and the way we can interpret it for our own countries. Finland creates what I would call Shoot and Ladders maps based upon the childrens game of the same name. They look at all the possible ways a student can fall through the cracks and have mechanisms in place to steer him/her up or to a place of success. I can only imagine my country creating a system designed around supporting students likely to fail (so that they do not), while simultaneously engaging top students and teachers in the process of ensuring that this does not happen so that they are equally inspired and challenged. Finally, folks, you have to admit it; if nothing else, the PISA test is a compelling conversation. I cant wait to see how you connect the Millennium Development Goals again as we continue the discussions and move to education and development.