Friday, December 20, 2013

What Does the PISA Report Tell Us About U.S. Education? Part 1 of 4

With exams finishing up and break fast approaching, I finally have time to breathe for a moment and actually discuss the PISA results.

PISA stands for Programme for International Student Assessment (yes, the British version of the word "program") which tests 15 year-old students in reading, writing, and math every three years. The first test was given in 2000 and it scores and ranks roughly 30 countries in these categories. As you may guess, the USA has never been at the top nor have we been at the bottom. Our students score "average" and have been every year. We are at the bottom of the "developed" countries which doesn't make us look good at all.

Test like the PISA are used in the United States to cry out for action to change things by using the same methods we used last time because it has to work eventually!

I wish I was kidding.

This year, Arne Duncan, our Secretary of Education, decided to use these test scores as proof that we need the Common Core standards and evaluations. The evaluation side of this is eerie similar to the ones No Child Left Behind (NCLB) or Race to the Top (RT) implemented. Standardized tests run by publishing and testing companies that, unless you are white and middle to upper middle class, you will struggle with passing.

The PISA has also caused people who know nothing about teaching to come up with ideas that have been tired since 2000 and obviously haven't done jack since our scores have been roughly the same.

Instead of me breaking down the PISA into numbers and facts which, face it, will take the English teacher way too many hours to do, I have linked a video below put together by American Federation of Teachers (AFT). It is a great 5 minute video and not a waste of time if you actually care about education.

If you didn't actually watch the video because you are like my students and would hope I would summarize it for you, you are actually in luck. Below are the 5 things people claim after seeing this report.

  1. US student performance is dropping
  2. US spends the most on education
  3. Teachers are overpaid for the amount of work they do
  4. The US does not have good teachers
  5. Teachers unions are evil

I actually want to dive deeper into some of these reasons beyond what the video provides which is why I'm splitting up my posts. Over the next week or two, I'll actually do some research on some of these things beyond what the video does and since some I'm a little more passionate about, I'm not doing the reasons in order. So below is the order I'll be handling it with the myths I find the most annoying for last.

  1. Teacher unions are evil
  2. The US does not have good teachers
  3. US spends the most on education
  4. US student performance is dropping
  5. Teachers are overpaid for the amount of work they do

Myth #1: Teacher unions are evil

To be honest, I do not have much experience with teacher unions. I work in a private school that is in a right-to-work state so there isn't even a union at my school. However, we talked about teacher unions at length during my undergrad program and currently in my grad program (which is filled with teachers that are in unions). I frankly do not have time to do the research required to give you facts that come from other locations besides anti-union politicians and the actual unions themselves. So what I'll give you is my opinion.

Teacher unions are not "evil." The reason why they exist is because people who have zero experience with education think they can run education. Some of these people do so with the best intentions while others seem to just hate teachers (which to me says they had to have been a bad student who thought they were the best thing since sliced bread but in reality weren't but that's another story). If teachers unions weren't there fighting against the NCLB or RT evaluations, we would be even worse off then where we currently are. If you want to stop fighting teacher unions, give education back to the people who know what they are doing. 

"But it is my children so I should have a say!"

Yes, a say. You can voice your ideas and opinions. Teachers work better when parents do this and teachers are able to actually work with the parents. The problem comes in when the "say" becomes the "law." You don't know what you're doing when it comes to teaching. Maybe parenting, but not teaching. So yes, you can give your opinions but when teachers explain why something won't work or fight against the horrible idea, don't sit there and think the teacher is wrong. They have the degree. You don't. You can't always be right.

Teacher unions are only perceived to be "evil" because they have to fight for their rights. Stop treating teachers as sub par and maybe the "power" that teachers unions want/have won't be as high.

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