PISA denial

U.S. educators are downplaying PISA results that show Asian countries excel, while the U.S. rank is slipping, writes Marc Tucker in PISA Denial. After all, few Asians are winning Nobel prizes or “starting game-changing business like Apple, Oracle, Google or Microsoft,” they argue. Maybe PISA measures things that aren’t very important, while U.S. schools are teaching creativity and innovation.

That’s sophistry, responds Tucker.  Those game-changing entrepreneurs are highly educated and innovative and creative. Their companies don’t hire creative people with mediocre reading, writing and math skills.

 They do not have to choose between well-educated and highly competent people, on the one hand, and creative and innovative people on the other. They demand and can get both. In the same person.

PISA measures “the ability to apply what is learned to real world problems” and increasingly is focusing on applying knowledge to “unanticipated, novel problems,” writes Tucker.

Creativity does not take place in a knowledge vacuum. It is typically the product of the rubbing together, so to speak, of two or more bodies of knowledge, of holding up the framework associated with one body of knowledge to another arena that it was not designed to illuminate. When that happens, odds are that the new insights, born of the application of the old framework to the novel problem, will emerge. The literature tells us that this means that you are most likely to get the kind of creativity we are most interested in from highly educated people who are deeply versed in very different arenas.

Asian educators are working hard to learn from U.S. schools, writes Tucker. They want to place more stress on individual initiative without accepting the “violence and chaos” they see as the cultural price. Some Americans want Asian achievement levels with less social conformity, but we’re not really trying to get there. Instead, “we are working hard at denial.”

PISA matters, agrees Eric Hanushek, who disposes of several excuses for U.S. mediocrity.

 While our low ranking has been seen on earlier international assessments, there are many reasons to believe that low cognitive skills (as assessed by PISA) will be increasingly important for our economic future.

We don’t have to be Singapore or Korea. If the U.S. could reach Canadian achievement levels, the average worker would earn 20 percent more, Hanushek writes.

BTW, Silicon Valley, where I live, is filled with entrepreneurs educated in India, China and elsewhere.  Forty-four percent of Silicon Valley start-ups were founded by immigrant entrepreneurs in 2012, down from 52 percent in 2005.

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Comments

  1. PhillipMarlowe says:

    “U.S. educators are downplaying PISA results that show Asian countries excel, while the U.S. rank is slipping, writes Marc Tucker in PISA Denial. -

    “Asian educators are working hard to learn from U.S. schools, writes Tucker.

  2. cranberry says:

    How did US students of Asian descent perform on PISA?

    • Roger Sweeny says:
      • cranberry says:

        Thanks for that link.

        You know, Canada isn’t our twin. According to Wikipedia, Canada is 15% Asian. The US is less than 6% Asian.
        So it just may be that Canada’s relative achievement levels are influenced by having 2.5x more students from a subgroup which is internationally known for taking education very seriously. Canada may even have more students of Asian ancestry, as it has recently welcomed immigration from Asia to a greater degree than the US.

        How to improve scores? Well, first, it would help things a great deal if students were allowed to possess well-thought out textbooks, which laid out lessons in a logical sequence throughout the K-8 career. This would allow parents to help at home, and allow students to reread things they didn’t understand the first time. It would also give them terms they could search for on the internet.

        Second, I find US children these days are sheltered from independent action. (in the aggregate!) Rather than arrange field trips to far-off places, how about setting up scavenger hunts in town, which might require taking public transport? Or Geocaching competitions? Or give a group a budget, and they have to plan a class party?

  3. Crimson Wife says:

    [i]” If the U.S. could reach Canadian achievement levels, the average worker would earn 20 percent more, Hanushek writes.” [/i]

    While I believe that having stronger academic skills would be a very good thing for the typical American, it’s no panacea for our country’s economic woes. Low-wage service jobs aren’t suddenly going to increase their pay just because their applicants have stronger academic skills. Look at all the college graduates stuck working retail or food service because there aren’t enough good jobs to go around.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      Statistics clearly show that people who join their college basketball team are 6 inches taller than people who don’t. It is a foolproof way of growing taller.

    • Educationally Incorrect says:

      I once met a retired Canadian science teacher, and when I told him how my physics-ignorant ex-English-teacher assistant principal would tell me how to teach physics, he, the Canadian, said ‘Oh, that would never happen in Canada.’

      There, apparently, the head of the science department evaluated science teachers and teaching, and not YAET (yet another English teacher)