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Amanda Bush

George Mason University - AACTE intern

Apples to Oranges: Comparing Student Performance Across Countries With Varied Socioeconomic Conditions

In the three decades since A Nation at Risk was released, the state of America’s education system relative to other countries’ has been a matter of heated debate. Along the way, public opinion has placed the onus for our schools’ perceived failure on teachers and their preparation, and education policy has echoed this assumption through an array of accountability measures for teachers and preparation programs.

One driver of the continued misconception about U.S. teacher quality is the highly publicized results of international large-scale education assessments (ILSAs) that suggest America’s students are performing far below other nations. At January’s press briefing for the report The Iceberg Effect, lead researcher and report author James Harvey explained that ILSAs have been misused and that the science behind them is highly questionable, akin to comparing apples to oranges.

Interest in Performance Assessment Abounds at AACTE National Conference

The discussion about developing and integrating high-quality teacher performance assessments across the continuum of teacher preparation was the highlight of several sessions offered at AACTE’s recent Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

An audience poll during the AACTE Town Hall Meeting illustrated that most of us work in states that either have policies regarding performance assessments in place or are considering implementing such policies in the near future. It’s no wonder, then, that related sessions were well attended.

‘The Iceberg Effect’—Not Just About Asking Questions

Upon arriving at AACTE last month to begin our semester-long internship, we were whisked off to the National Press Club for a press briefing on The Iceberg Effect, based on the new studySchool Performance in Context: Indicators of School Inputs and Outputs in Nine Similar Nations. For three doctoral students who are dedicated to promoting social justice in and out of the classroom, this could not have been a more fitting introduction to our work at AACTE.

The report, released by the National Superintendents Roundtable and the Horace Mann Foundation, casts new light on U.S. students’ performance on international assessments, controlling for social and economic factors that have not been previously studied alongside student achievement on this scale. The results highlight the relatively strong academic achievement of America’s students in spite of our nation’s poor performance in providing supports to help offset the widespread social and economic effects of poverty.

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