The 2010 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American Students Learning?
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.
Tom Loveless, “The 2010 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American Students Learning?” (Washington, D.C.: The Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings, February 2011).
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