Lessons from PISA for the United States

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US President Obama has launched one of the world’s most ambitious education reform agendas. Under the heading “Race to the Top”, this agenda encourages US states to adopt internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace: recruit, develop, reward, and retain effective teachers and principals; build data systems that measure student success; and inform teachers and principals how they can improve their practices and turn around their lowest-performing schools.

But what does the “top” look like internationally? How have the countries at the top managed to achieve sustained high performance or to significantly improve their performance? The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) provides the world’s most extensive and rigorous set of international surveys assessing the knowledge and skills of secondary school students. This volume combines an analysis of PISA with a description of the policies and practices of those education systems that are close to the top or advancing rapidly, in order to offer insights for policy from their reform trajectories.


Vignettes on Education Reforms: England and Poland

This chapter provides brief vignettes describing some specific education reforms in three countries – England and Poland:

• In England the government responded to a teacher shortage with a successful campaign to attract more potential teachers. The success of the English strategy rests on its two-pronged approach which combines a clever advertising campaign with a substantial package of financial relief. The government has now met its recruitment targets.

• Since 2000, reforms in Poland have made impressive gains in the quality of its secondary education. There were three elements to the reforms: i) increasing secondary and higher education qualifications in the population; ii) ensuring equal educational opportunities; and iii) improving the quality of education. Poland’s PISA scores now show that the variance between schools in student performance in reading, mathematics, and science has been significantly reduced.


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