Interpreting international comparisons in academic achievement

Tony Bates, e-learning & distance education resources, Dec 10, 2010
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Good and sane analysis of the PISA results (in contrast to what we've seen from much of the media). "I would expect," writes Tony bates, "something more from reporters than just taking the OECD handout, quickly scanning it, and jumping to conclusions that are not really justified by even a cursory look at the data." In particular, we should question the study methodology, sampling criteria, and regression to the mean. As Bates notes, "Shanghai of course is not typical of China. It is the richest city and a key centre in its education system."

And I can't resist echoing his final comment, which is dead on: "My final comment is that standardized tests are a cornerstone of the right wing agenda referred to in an earlier post as the 'dysfunctionality narrative': state schools suck and the private sector would do better. The irony here is that the 'best' PISA performance comes from Shanghai, Hong Kong, Finland, and Singapore, all of which have a long history of state-controlled education. So, Sarah Palin, be careful what you wish for."
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