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Testing/Assessments and Learning Standards
December 03, 2013

PISA report underscores the urgent need to address inequality

Author: Darryl McGrath
Source: NYSUT Communications

An international assessment of high school students' academic skills prompted an urgent call for the United States to move away from test-based schooling and follow other industrialized nations in supporting the equitable distribution of resources, leaders of the AFT, the NEA and NYSUT said Tuesday.

At issue was the triennial release of the report from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

"Today's PISA results drive home what has become abundantly clear: A decade of top-down, test-based schooling created by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top has failed to improve the qualify of American public education," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. "Sadly, our nation has ignored the lessons from the high-performing nations – ensuring a robust curriculum, addressing equity issues so children with the most needs get the most resources and increasing parental involvement."

The PISA report is released every three years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international policy group of 34 member countries. More than 70 nations participate in the assessment of the reading, mathematics and science skills of 15-year-old students. U.S. students mainly lag in math skills.

"The United States' standings haven't improved dramatically because we as a nation haven't addressed the main cause of our mediocre PISA performance - the effects of poverty on students," said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association.

"As a society, we know what the issues are; we know what needs to be done, but the economic and political will to do something about it is not there," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira. She joined other national education labor leaders for a roundtable discussion on the report at the AFT headquarters in Washington, D.C., this week, which focused on how education unions can get the government to, as Weingarten put it, "move away from the failed policies and embrace what works in high-performing countries."