And here is yet another report declaring the importance of teacher quality, this one by Steven L. Paine, vice president, Strategic Planning and Business Development, CTB/McGraw-Hill, and Andreas Schleicher, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s director of Program for International Student Assessment, the test known as PISA.
The International Summit on the Teaching Profession has brought education ministers, national union leaders and accomplished teachers from countries with high performing and rapidly improving educational systems, including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, People’s Republic of China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Republic of Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The United States fares poorly on the PISA benchmarking test and this report, Lessons from Pisa, examines why.
Its conclusion: We need to improve teacher quality.
The report states: Teaching education programs in high-performing nations tend to be more selective and more rigorous than in the U.S. Trainee teachers in the U.S. also need to spend more hands-on time in the classroom getting real-world experience – another strategy employed by the most successful OECD countries. The U.S. must restore the teaching profession to the level of respect and dignity it enjoyed only a few decades ago. This will not be easy, particularly in the current economic environment with states and localities strapped for funds. But improving the regard with which teachers are held is not principally about how much they are paid.
Among the findings cited in the summary:
Seventeen percent of the variation in U.S. student performance on the 2009 PISA assessments can be explained by a student’s socio-economic background, a far higher percentage than the OECD average. In Canada or Japan, for example, only 9 percent of a student’s score is influenced by socio-economic differences.
What this means is that two U.S. students from different socio-economic backgrounds will vary much more in their learning outcomes than is normally the case in OECD countries. Only Hungary, Belgium, Turkey, Luxembourg, Chile and Germany among the 33 other OECD countries show a larger impact of socio-economic background on reading performance than the United States.
The United States does not have a more disadvantaged socio-economic student population than the OECD average country but the socio-economic differences that do exist among students in the U.S. translate into a particularly strong impact on student learning outcomes.
At the same time, it is important to point out that socio-economic factors are far from deterministic, particularly in the U.S.. Some of the most disadvantaged schools in the U.S., from a socio-economic standpoint, match the results we see in Finland, one of the best performing educational systems in the world. And 25 percent of 15 year-olds attending economically disadvantaged schools in the U.S. achieve the average scores earned by Finnish students who are the same age.
Positive factors working in favor of the U.S. when it comes to education include:
-U.S. parents tend to be better-educated than parents in many OECD countries;
-U.S. students score comparatively well at the higher levels of reading proficiency. Nearly twice as many 15 year-olds score at the highest reading level of six (1.5 percent) compared with the OECD average (0.8 percent), and 10 percent score at level five in reading (above average), compared with a 7.6 percent average across all OECD countries; and U.S. scores in science are respectable if not outstanding, and improving — with 1 percent achieving level six and 9 percent level five, and the overall average science score of 502 a definite and statistically significant improvement over the 2006 U.S. score of 489;
It is principally in math where U.S. student scores appear consistently lackluster, particularly when compared with the highest performing countries. Only two percent of U.S. 15 year-olds reach a level six in math, compared with a 3 percent OECD average, and an astounding 27 percent level six rate was achieved by students in Shanghai-China in 2009.
In addition, while a respectable 10 percent of U.S. student earned an “above-average” five in math in 2009, nearly fifty percent of students in Shanghai did – challenging the definition of the phrase “above average” for the students of that exceptionally high-performing system.
During the early years of new Millennium, co-author Dr. Steven Paine traveled to observe first-hand the educational systems of Finland, Singapore and Ontario, Canada, to learn what he could from direct observation of what these education authorities were doing to achieve such strong outcomes.
The major difference, he noted, between those systems and the one in the U.S. had to do with how teachers are valued, trained and compensated. All three systems pay very careful attention to raising and maintaining the standards of the teaching profession, only accepting the very best candidates and expending substantial amounts of time and money to nurture and develop the talents and leadership abilities of teachers and principals.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog