Are American students learning?

How Well Are American Students Learning?, the Brown Center report, criticizes proposals to model a national U.S. exam on Europe’s PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment). Some PISA questions are ideologically biased, the report argues.

PISA wants to assess whether students are capable of applying science to public policy. Fair enough. That capacity can be evaluated, however, without making a judgment about students’ political beliefs. PISA asks students whether they support several environmental policies and then creates an index of “responsibility for sustainable development” from the responses. Responses in favor of the policies are responsible; those opposed are not. That kind of questioning is inappropriate on a science assessment. Without serious reform, PISA is inappropriate for benchmarking.

The report also argues against requiring all eighth graders to take algebra, as California and Minnesota plan to do.  Too many students already are “misplaced” in math courses they can’t handle, the report concludes:  Until they’ve learned to deal with fractions, decimals or percentages, they can’t do algebra.

Via Education Gadfly.

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  1. Performance-based models could save America’s public education education, but districts continue to adopts a model that are continuously failing students.

    Here is a summary from an article in Converge magazine: Extinguishing Education’s ‘Burning Platform’:

    For 2006, the U.S. Department of Education reported that low-income high school students have a 16.5 percent dropout rate. Although the numbers have improved slightly over the past 10 years, there are still thousands of students left behind under the current system.

    The performance-based system holds students accountable for their learning — they learn at their own pace and set goals for themselves. Because they are required to create plans for each subject, students better understand their focus and goals.

    In this system, students are no longer assigned to traditional grades, but levels. Within the district, there are 10 content areas: math, technology, social science, reading, writing, cultural awareness, social/health development, career development, service learning and science. Every student enters school at level 1 for each of the content areas; however, if an individual proves proficient in math before science, then the student can move to level 2 math while remaining in level 1 science.

    Additionally, students are not given letter grades — A, B, C, D and F. Instead, teachers use rubrics, projects and traditional tests to determine whether an individual is passing the standards within a particular level. Teachers decide if students are “emerging,” “developing,” “proficient” or “advanced” within each level for every content area.