Despite a slightly tardy release, the 2010
report from Brookings’s Brown Center does a lot in a little space; PISA, NAEP,
Race to the Top, and the Common Core all appear. Yet one key thesis
emerges through the report’s tripartite analysis: Test scores aren’t always
what they seem. Part I tackles international assessments, with
author Tom Loveless convincingly debunking two “myths”: first, that U.S.
performance on international assessments has declined over time, and, second,
that Finland is alpha on international rankings, with China and India quickly
rising. To disprove the former, Loveless tracks U.S. results and progress on
international math assessments dating back to 1964. During the First
International Math Study (FIMS), the U.S. ranked eleventh out of twelve participating
countries. Compared to those same eleven FIMS countries, the U.S. now scores
close to average, marking an upward trend in student achievement. The second
myth he counters by decoupling Finnish scores on PISA from those of TIMSS and
other more content-oriented tests. While Finland’s students excel when tested
on their PISA-like “literacy” learning, they fall to the middle of the pack on more
traditional tests of math and science prowess such as TIMSS. As for China and
India, Loveless reminds us that neither country has ever participated in an
international assessment. (Shanghai, he asserts, doesn’t count.)
The other two parts of the report, one cross-tabulating NAEP gains to Race to
the Top winner status (part II) and one comparing NAEP assessments to the
Common Core frameworks (part III), are also worthy of perusal. (Our take on
part III here).
Check them out—and before we’re any further into 2011.