30 de abril de 2017

Can Technology Change How Teachers Teach? (Part 1) by larrycuban

Have the 41 exemplary teachers in integrating technology into daily lessons that I observed and interviewed in Silicon Valley in 2016 changed their practice as a result of using new devices and software?
Straightforward as the question sounds, it is tricky to answer. Why?
In a society geared to constant change as America is, the word has far more positive than negative connotations. Fashions in clothes, car models, gadgets, and hairstyles change every year trumpeting the next new thing to acquire. Both Presidential campaigners Barack Obama in 2008 and Donald Trump in 2016, for example, promised their supporters that America will change for the better. Change is “good.” Embracing the new is progress. It is a norm that Americans revel in.
Especially when it comes to taking on new technologies in the past (e.g., household appliances, radio, television) and present (e.g., desktop computers, laptops, and smart phones). So for teachers, doctors, lawyers, CEOs, and elected officials not accepting the next new electronic device and changing their daily practice is often seen as resistance, a fondness for the “old” that is out of step with American values and the future. Reform-driven policymakers, deep pocket donors, entrepreneurs and vendors believe a lack of change or very slow adoption of new digital tools to be a detriment to student learning, patients, clients, customers, and voters. So a social and individual bias toward change, particularly technological change, is built into American society, history, institutions and professional behavior.
Acknowledging a historical bias toward change hints at the trickiness of the question I ask. Judging whether teachers have actually altered their daily classroom practice is surprisingly hard to do. Teachers, imbued with the culture’s values, often say that they have changed their lessons from week to week, year to year due to new district curricula, tests, and programs. Yet policymakers and researchers are less certain of such changes.[i]
Consider that researchers ordinarily find out whether teachers have changed their practices through direct observation before and after change occurred, interviews, surveying faculty opinions, sampling principal evaluations, and soliciting student views. Few researchers, however, have the access, time, or funds to tap all of these sources so they use short cuts and depend upon one or two sources at best and snapshots of one moment in time. Occasional teacher interviews, drop-in classroom observations, and faculty surveys are often what researchers end up using to answer to the question.
Yet even when researchers or other inquirers believe they have sufficient information to determine that teachers have changed how they teach lessons, such a conclusion does not tell you the direction of those changes, that is, from more teacher-centered to more student-centered or whether those changes were superficial or substantial, whether they were a step forward or a step backward in classroom practice.
Think, for example, of a classroom where teachers once used a low-tech device for nearly two centuries to reach students and within the past half-century that low-tech device has morphed into an expensive high-tech tool in classroom. I speak of the chalkboard.
The innovative slate chalkboard introduced in the early 19th century was eventually replaced in the mid-20th century by green boards and then soon after whiteboards using erasable markers. Now electronic smart boards have become pervasive (60 percent of K-12 classrooms have been installed as of 2014). These changes in a classroom technology have helped teachers convey knowledge, students practice skills, and display lesson objectives and activities. And these changes have strengthened familiar teacher-centered practices (e.g., lecture, recitation, guided whole group discussion) that have dominated public school teaching for over a century and a half. [ii]
The evolution of the slate chalkboard into electronic smart boards mark classroom changes in the past century. So what did those Silicon Valley teachers, exemplars of technology integration, tell me about changes that had occurred in their classrooms?
According to what teachers told me, they have altered their practice. These teachers identified as being exemplary in integrating technology took attendance, recorded assignments, checked homework, assessed students, and emailed parents routinely using laptops and tablets and other devices. They organized lessons to include whole-group, small group instruction, and independent student work. Many of the teachers I observed created individual playlists of math, science, and social studies sources for their students to engage in research projects. They individualized lessons and helped students self-assess their grasp of content and skills. So these teachers have, according to their recall of how they taught previously, modified practices when using new technologies.
But just listing new and altered practices associated with the spread of electronic devices does not get at the depth of the change or its direction in classroom practice. Consider the following queries:
*Is using an interactive white board instead of an overhead projector and chalkboard a substantial “change” or simply a modification of a habitual practice?
*Is it a superficial or deep “change” in classroom practice when a teacher takes attendance on her tablet instead of checking off names on a sheet of paper?
*Is it a small or large “change” when students submit electronically their notes and assignments to Dropbox instead of turning in paper homework?
Surely, these queries reveal “changes,” in familiar practices. The teachers I observed and interviewed would readily acknowledge that such alterations in routines have been important to them because these changes saved time and energy. In conversations with these teachers, the word “efficient” popped up repeatedly. Using less time for administrative details and having at one’s fingertips information from multiple sources for students to access was of great importance to teachers. Such changes gave teachers an edge in racing against the clock during a lesson. Teachers perceived such changes as important. Yet ardent reformers often under-appreciate and overlook these changes.
Technologically-driven reformers might begrudgingly admit that these examples are “changes” but not ones that they envisioned. Entrepreneurs eager to help schools dump the “factory model” of schooling (e.g., age-graded school, traditional teaching) might categorize these “changes” as merely shallow or, perhaps, trivial compared to schools that convert to “blended” learning combining online and face-to-face lessons that are “personalized.” Reform-minded policymakers and donors want to see teachers creating individual playlists for students, students working on projects every week, frequently use online lessons, and similar “transformative” changes. They see technologies steering classrooms toward student-centered teaching, a direction they promote. Anything less than these kind of fundamental (or sometimes called “real”) changes in pedagogy, they would be disappointed.
Or researchers, deeply believing in student-centered learning observing lessons in these teachers’ classrooms, might see such changes as mere adjustments that reinforce dominant patterns of teacher-directed lessons. Yet these researchers know that they must be alert to their own values and biases when they collect, analyze, and publish their studies. In analyzing these facets of classroom practice, attention has to be paid to the tacit biases that inhabit those who observe, describe, and analyze how lessons unfold. Where one sits (or stands), surely shapes one’s perspective.
Teachers, principals, parents, researchers, and policymakers, for example, have different organizational roles and experiences. They approach data from varied viewpoints. And they are Americans socialized to see change as progress and an unalloyed good. These differences among academics and members of district and school communities have to be made explicit in making sense of what teachers say and do.
So answering the question of whether widespread student access and teacher use of technologies has “changed daily classroom practices” depends upon who is the asker, who is the doer, and what actually occurs in the classroom.
The next post dips into who asks the questions, the role of teacher and researcher in making sense of what occurs in lessons.
[i] Diane Stark Rentner, et. al., “Listen to Us: Teacher Views and Voices,” 2016 (Center for Education Policy, George Washington University).
[ii] Kim Kankiewicz, “There’s No Erasing the Chalkboard,” The Atlantic, October 13, 2016 at: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/10/theres-no-erasing-the-chalkboard/503975/
larrycuban | April 30, 2017

29 de abril de 2017

Yo también pido la palabra por la educación, Federico Mayor

Posted: 29 Apr 2017 
La SAME 2017 tiene un lema que debemos procurar retener a lo largo del año para nuestro comportamiento cotidiano: “Pido la palabra por la educación”. 

Es cierto que únicamente seres educados, es decir “libres y responsables”, como magistralmente los define el artículo 1º de la Constitución de la UNESCO, serán capaces -en estos momentos históricos en que si no rectificamos las tendencias actuales podrían alcanzarse punto de no retorno- de adoptar las medidas adecuadas y oportunas para que nuestro legado a las generaciones venideras no sea el de una Tierra deteriorada, de una habitabilidad reducida. 

Educación para actuar a tiempo, para ser y no para tener. Educación para ejercer plenamente las facultades distintivas de la especie humana (pensar, imaginar anticiparse, ¡crear!) que son nuestra esperanza. Cada ser humano único capaz de inventar el mañana y demostrar que muchos imposibles hoy pueden convertirse en realidad. 

¿Educación por quién? Por los progenitores, por los maestros, por los medios de comunicación… teniendo siempre muy claro que, en todos estos casos, “más vale un ejemplo que cien sermones”, porque lo que no puede pretenderse es que lo que se explica en las aulas como pautas a seguir no se corresponda con la conducta de quienes, próximos o distantes, aparecen como referentes. 

Educación para todos a lo largo de toda la vida: Educación para la mediación y el diálogo. Educación para la conciliación, porque gracias a la tecnología digital ya podemos expresarnos, ya sabemos lo que acontece en todos los rincones de la tierra y, sobre todo, la mujer, marginada desde el origen de los tiempos, tiene progresivamente el papel que le corresponde en la toma de decisiones. No me canso de repetirlo: la transición de la razón de la fuerza a la fuerza de la razón, de la imposición a la palabra, sólo tendrá lugar cuando la mujer –“que sólo excepcionalmente utiliza la fuerza cuando el hombre sólo excepcionalmente no la utiliza”, en palabras del Presidente Nelson Mandela- ocupe el lugar que le corresponde en el diseño de la sociedad futura. 

Pido la palabra por la Educación: que todos tengan acceso, en cualquier momento de su vida, porque si hay algún tren que nunca nadie debe perder es el del pleno desarrollo de las inverosímiles capacidades intelectuales humanas. 

Todos los seres humanos iguales en dignidad. 

Será una educación inclusiva, durante toda la vida, equitativa, de calidad, la que nos permitirá aprender a vivir juntos, a conocer y hacer para que, como lo recuerda el artículo 1º de la Declaración Universal, vivamos “fraternalmente”. 

¡Pido la palabra por la Educación! 

28 de abril de 2017

Universidades Públicas: Público não é gratuito


Mais uma vez, foi o Supremo Tribunal Federal a dar um passo refugado pelo Congresso. Na quarta-feira (26), 9 dos 10 ministros presentes ao pleno liberaram a cobrança de cursos de extensão por universidades públicas.
O assunto havia sido objeto de proposta de emenda constitucional que terminou rejeitada —por falta de meros quatro votos para se alcançar o quórum necessário— na Câmara dos Deputados, pouco menos de um mês atrás.
O tema chegou ao Supremo e ao Parlamento por suposto conflito entre a cobrança, corriqueira em boa parte das instituições federais e estaduais de ensino superior, e o artigo 206 da Constituição —este prevê a gratuidade do ensino público em estabelecimentos oficiais.
Para o STF, cursos de extensão, como os de especialização e MBA, não se enquadram no conceito do ensino que o Estado está obrigado a prover, em condições de igualdade, para toda a população.
Seria o caso de questionar se a formação superior deve ou não figurar no escopo da educação que todo brasileiro tem direito de receber sem pagar. Parece mais sensato limitar tal exigência ao ensino básico (fundamental e médio).
O Supremo não avançou na matéria porque já firmara jurisprudência de que cursos de graduação, mestrado e doutorado estão cobertos pelo artigo 206. A desejável revisão das normas atuais, portanto, depende do Legislativo.
A educação pública, é bom lembrar, não sai de graça: todos pagamos por ela, como contribuintes. Apenas 35% dos jovens de 18 a 24 anos chegam ao nível superior, e muitos dos matriculados nas universidades públicas teriam meios para pagar mensalidades.
A resultante do sistema atual é um caso óbvio de iniquidade: pobres recebem educação básica em escolas oficiais de má qualidade e conseguem poucas vagas nas universidades públicas; estas abrigam fatia desproporcional de alunos oriundos de colégios privados, que têm seu curso superior (e futuro acesso a melhores empregos) custeado por toda a sociedade.
A exceção ora aberta para os cursos de extensão é limitada. As universidades estaduais paulistas, por exemplo, já têm mais de 30 mil pagantes matriculados nessa modalidade, mas a receita adicional assim auferida se conta em dezenas de milhões de reais por ano, contra orçamentos na casa dos bilhões.
A exceção é igualmente tímida, porque seria mais justo derrubar de vez o tabu da gratuidade e passar a cobrar —só de quem possa pagar, claro esteja— também nos cursos de graduação e pós-graduação.

27 de abril de 2017

Sowing Climate Doubt Among Schoolteachers

CreditJensine Eckwall
PAUL SMITHS, N.Y. — The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank known for attacking climate science, has been mailing a slim, glossy book to public school teachers throughout the United States. The institute says it plans to send out as many as 200,000 copies, until virtually every science educator in America has one.
The book, “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,” presents the false premise that the evidence for human-driven climate change is deeply flawed. To understand where the Heartland Institute is coming from, consider a recent comment by its president, Joseph Bast, who called global warming “another fake crisis” for Democrats “to hype to scare voters and raise campaign dollars.”
The book was first published in 2015, to coincide with the Paris climate conference and influence policy makers. The second edition was released this year with an instructional DVD.
Public school teachers are not the only ones on the institute’s mailing list. College educators are getting copies of the book, too. One academic in Albany told me that hers arrived in an envelope bearing the headline of a New York Times article about an investigation into Exxon Mobil for possibly lying about climate change. “I was in a rush, and all I noticed was the word ‘climate’ in a New York Times headline,” she said. “That made me open it rather than throw it out.”
The cover letter inside, however, made the book’s premise clear. “Claims of a ‘scientific consensus’ ” on climate change, it read, “rest on two college student papers, the writings of a wacky Australian blogger, and a non-peer-reviewed essay by a socialist historian.” In fact, multiple surveys of the scientific literature show that well over 90 percent of published climate scientists have concluded that recent global warming is both real and mostly the result of human activity.
Continue reading the main story
For example, a study in 2010 found that 97 percent of the 200 most-published authors of climate-related papers held the consensus position, and a survey in 2013 of 4,014 abstracts of peer-reviewed climate papers found 97 percent agreement. The Heartland-distributed book disputes the methods used in these and similar surveys but provides no definitive counterarguments against the overall weight of evidence. The fact is that survey after survey, involving multiple approaches and authors, finds a strong consensus among scientists who are most knowledgeable about climate change.

Ms. Noon introduces the book’s three authors as “highly regarded climate scientists.” Not quite true. Despite their academic credentials, none have the publication record of an accomplished expert in the field, though they may be lauded by the conservative media.
This latest edition contains a foreword by Marita Noon, described by the book as a columnist for Breitbart and executive director of Energy Makes America Great.
Having been cautiously skeptical myself before reaching the consensus position, I remember that some legitimate uncertainty about the human contribution to global warming did exist within my specialty of paleoclimatology several decades ago. Since then, however, high-quality climate reconstructions from ice cores, tree rings, lake sediments and other geological sources, coupled with rigorous analyses of solar activity, volcanism and fossil fuel emissions, have made it clear that the recent warming is not simply a result of natural variability or cycles. Long after the newer, better data convinced me and the vast majority of other climate scientists of the powerful human role in global warming, climate-change deniers still cling to the outdated idea of natural causes.
Unfortunately, many teachers seem unaware of this. A survey of 1,500 American science teachers published last year in the journal Science found 30 percent of those surveyed said they emphasized in their classes that recent global warming “is likely due to natural causes.” Less than half also correctly identified the degree of consensus among climate scientists that human activities are the primary cause of global warming.
They may therefore be vulnerable to suggestions that they should “teach the controversy” for the sake of balance, particularly in places like Tennessee and Louisiana, where state law permits the teaching of alternative interpretations of evolution and climate change in public schools. The Heartland Institute is now exploiting this opportunity to influence the next generation on a national scale.
The book is unscientific propaganda from authors with connections to the disinformation-machinery of the Heartland Institute. In a recent letter to his members, David L. Evans, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, said that “labeling propaganda as science does not make it so.” He called the institute’s mass mailing of the book an “unprecedented attack” on science education.
Judging from the responses of educators I know who have received “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming” in recent weeks, most copies of it are likely to be ignored or discarded. But if only a small percentage of teachers use it as intended, they could still mislead tens of thousands of students with it year after year.

Why Germany Educates International Students for Free

University leaders see benefits to policy in a country with aging population, 
but some states have been trying to move away from the approach.
April 27, 2017

In 2016, German universities enjoyed another big rise in the international student population, according to the latest data. Germany recorded close to a 7 percent increase in international students coming to the country. This follows a jump of nearly 8 percent the previous year. Numbers have risen about 30 percent since 2012.
In most English-speaking countries, this kind of news would have university finance chiefs grinning from ear to ear: more international students means lots of extra cash from hefty tuition fees.
But in Germany, students -- on the whole -- famously pay no tuition fees, regardless of where they come from. Seen from the U.S. or Britain, this policy may appear either supremely principled or incredibly naïve. With international students making up nearly one in 10 students (and even more if you count noncitizens who attended German schools), why does the country choose to pass up tuition-fee income and educate other countries’ young people for free?
One reason is that Germany has a much bigger demographic hole to fill than the U.S. or Britain. It is second only to Japan in terms of the proportion of its population over 60, according to the United Nations, and so needs young, skilled workers to keep its economy going. Germany still offers an 18-month poststudy work visa for graduates from outside the European Union; Britain scrapped a similar policy in 2012.
International students certainly seem to want to stick around: about half plan to remain in Germany after graduation, according to a survey conducted by the German Academic Exchange Service, with three in 10 planning to stay permanently.
Although this is far from their only role, “universities are motors of economic welfare, they attract people to Germany,” explained Marijke Wahlers, head of the international department of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK).
“International graduates are very welcome to stay in Germany -- either for a certain period of time or for life.” But, she stressed, “we are, at the same time, very much aware of the impact of brain drain around the globe, so we like to think about this issue in terms of a global circulation of brains.”
The soft-power argument plays a role, too: overseas graduates are seen as generating goodwill for Germany globally. “The idea of Germany being part of an international community is valued very highly,” said Wahlers. “Of course, we invest a certain amount of money [in their education], but what we get back is worth so much more. The international students, when they graduate, will be partners for Germany in the world; this kind of international network building is of immense importance to us.”
But there is a third reason why Germany is happy to educate overseas students that has less to do with global soft power and more to do with local politics. After 2006, seven German Bundesländer (federal states), which set fee levels, rather than the federal government, introduced (modest) fees, only to hastily scrap them under pressure from the public and left-of-center parties, explained Ulrich Müller, head of policy studies at the Center for Higher Education, a German think tank.
Introducing fees for international students could be interpreted as a prelude to charging all students, he explained. “For that reason, most politicians maintain a distance from this topic,” he said.
This anti-fee consensus is showing signs of cracking, however: starting in fall 2017, the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg will start charging non-E.U. students 1,500 euros ($1,634) per semester. “Other Bundesländer are watching very carefully what will happen in Baden-Württemberg when it introduces fees for international students,” said Wahlers. The HRK’s view is that all students should pay “moderate and socially acceptable fees,” she explained.
Free university for overseas students -- and indeed German students as well -- may come under increasing pressure after 2020, when Bundesländer will be forced to run balanced budgets, explained Müller.
“The issue of tuition fees in Germany will soon be raised again,” he said.
Countries Sending Students to Germany, 2016
CountryNumberPercentage of Total in Germany

26 de abril de 2017

STF autoriza universidades públicas a cobrar mensalidade em pós lato sensu

BRASÍLIA — Por nove votos a um, o Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) decidiu nesta quarta-feira que universidades públicas podem cobrar mensalidade por cursos de pós-graduação lato sensu, que compreendem programas de especialização e os chamados MBAs (Master Businesslinks universidade Administration).|
 O julgamento diz respeito à Universidade Federal de Goiás (UFG), mas tem repercussão geral, ou seja, a mesma decisão deve ser aplicada por outros tribunais e juízes em casos parecidos. Mestrado e doutorado continuam sendo necessariamente gratuitos.
O Tribunal Regional Federal da 1ª Região (TRF1), com sede em Brasília e abrangência sobre 14 unidades da federação, inclusive Goiás, considerou inconstitucional a cobrança de mensalidade pela UFG. O TRF1 manteve uma decisão anterior da Justiça Federal de primeira instância, que atendeu o pedido de um aluno de um curso lato sensu em Direito Constitucional da universidade.
A UFG recorreu. Segundo a universidade, o TRF1 deu interpretação equivocada a trechos da constituição que dizem que a educação é direito de todos e dever do Estado e que o ensino público é gratuito. De acordo com a UFG, os dispositivos constitucionais sobre o direito social à educação não incluem gratuidade em cursos lato sensu. Isso porque tais cursos têm objetivos que dizem respeito aos interesses individuais dos estudantes, como o aprimoramento profissional e a reciclagem.
O relator, o ministro Edson Fachin, concordou com a UFG. Os ministros Alexandre de Moraes, Rosa Weber, Luís Roberto Barroso, Luiz Fux, Dias Toffoli, Ricardo Lewandowski, Gilmar Mendes e Cármen Lúcia o acompanharam. Entre outros pontos, eles destacaram a falta de recursos públicos para aquelas atividades que realmente devem ser gratuitas. Assim, não há sentido em proibir a cobrança no lato sensu. Fux destacou, por exemplo, o sucateamento das universidades públicas brasileiras.
— A garantia constitucional da gratuidade de ensino não elide a cobrança por universidades públicas de mensalidade em curso de especialização. Sendo esse o único fundamento da impetração, incorreto o entendimento do tribunal recorrido que, sem observar a vinculação entre atividade em face da qual se estabeleceu a tarifa, estende a ela a gratuidade — afirmou Fachin.
Alguns ministros, como Moraes e Toffoli, também criticaram as barreiras à entrada de recursos privados para ajudar o financiamento de universidades públicas, como doações de ex-alunos. Segundo eles, isso não passa de preconceito e ideologia.
— Criou-se um escudo ideológico de que qualquer aproximação da universidade pública com o dinheiro, cobrança de curso ou aproximação da iniciativa privada é a privatização do ensino público. Por isso minha grande felicidade com o voto do ministro Fachin, que rompe essa barreira — disse Alexandre de Moraes.
Apenas o ministro Marco Aurélio discordou do relator. Ele entende que o acesso à universidade pública é gratuito, sem distinção de curso. Celso de Mello foi o único a não votar porque estava ausente.
Há, hoje, 51 casos semelhantes paralisados em instâncias inferiores à espera da decisão do STF. A sessão para julgar o caso começou na semana passada, mas apenas as partes e outros interessados se manifestaram. Os ministros votaram apenas nesta quarta.
Na ocasião, também se manifestaram a favor da cobrança a União e o Conselho Nacional das Fundações de Apoio às Instituições de Ensino Superior e de Pesquisa Científica e Tecnológica (Confies). Foram contra a Procuradoria-Geral da República (PGR), a Federação de Sindicatos de Trabalhadores das Universidades Brasileiras (Fasubra) e o Sindicato Nacional dos Docentes das Instituições de Ensino Superior (Andes).

O procurador federal João Marcelo Torres, que falou em nome da UFG, argumentou que os cursos lato sensu não são financiados pelo poder público, uma vez que servem apenas para aprofundar os estudos da graduação. Assim, pode haver cobrança.
— Os cursos de especialização não conferem graus acadêmicos a quem os conclui. Destinam-se ao aperfeiçoamento profissional dos seus estudantes e não, como mestrado e doutorado, às atividades de pesquisa e docência, estas sim, sempre dependentes de apoio do Estado - afirmou João Marcelo Torres.

What International Test Scores Reveal About American Education

By  04/26/2017

Has U.S. school performance been improving over the past two decades? The results of two international tests—the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Assessment (TIMSS)—shed some light on this question. Both were administered in 2015, an event that only occurs every 12 years. Inside the 2017 Brown Center Report on American Education, report author Tom Loveless takes advantage of this rare opportunity to illuminate trends in American students’ aptitude compared to previous years and to their international counterparts.
What are the PISA and TIMSS tests?
PISA, which was first administered in 2000, covers 15-year-old students’ literacy levels in three disciplines: reading, mathematics (first tested in 2003), and science (first tested in 2006). The test, given every three years, attempts to measure how well students can take concepts taught in the classroom and apply them to find solutions to real-world problems. TIMSS, which dates back to 1995, tests fourth and eighth graders every four years on how well they have learned math and science curricula. Both tests are scored on a scale of 0-1,000, with a mean of 500 and a standard deviation of 100; however, the true range of values lies between the 300s and the 600s.
Although the two tests are different in what they test, they are highly correlated. Any PISA section score and any TIMSS section score are strongly related, but correlations are not as strong when comparing a country’s gains on each test over time.
How did the U.S. perform on these tests in 2015?
The PISA test scores did not bring great news about the American education system, as the United States continues to hover around the international mean for reading and science literacy. On the mathematics literacy section, the U.S. even notched its lowest score to date at 470; this represents a decline from the previous two tests, but it is not statistically significantly different from its first-ever score in 2003. Overall, American PISA scores on all sections have been relatively flat over the test’s history, with no statistically significant change between the score on each section’s first year and the 2015 scores.
However, the U.S. has consistently performed better on TIMSS. Fourth grade scores have largely stayed above the international mean, with math results improving significantly over time—518 in 1995 grew to 539 in 2015—and science scores remaining steady around 540. Eighth grade TIMSS scores show statistically significant gains in both math and science over the test’s history: Math rose from 492 to 518, while science increased from 513 to 530.
How does the U.S. compare to other countries?
Handwringing about how the U.S. does on international tests contends with baseball as a national pastime. Initially, it appears that there is some justification to it: The U.S. still scores below the top performers on these tests when compared with economically developed countries in Europe and Asia. For example, Singapore, the highest TIMSS scorer for both grades and both sections, scores between 44 and 103 points better than the U.S. on any TIMSS section, the latter number constituting a difference of more than a full standard deviation. However, this does not tell the whole story of American students’ academic aptitude.
When evaluations of national performance consider statistical significance, the U.S. scores are often not as disappointing as the raw numbers may make them seem. The PISA scores are still somewhat poor—especially math, American students’ lowest score—but the reading results illustrate the nebulousness of rankings. The U.S. score in reading is tied for 23rd place, but its true ranking is more complicated than that: When statistical significance is taken into account, 14 systems scored higher than the U.S., 13 scored about the same, and a considerable 42 scored lower.
The U.S. also looks better on TIMSS when considered in this context. On fourth grade math, America’s score is reported as tied for 13th place; more precisely, it scores below 10 systems, is statistically indistinguishable from nine systems, and is higher than the scores of 34 systems. In eighth grade math, the contrast with PISA’s math scores is provocative: Only eight systems outscore the U.S. on TIMSS, compared to 36 countries outscoring the U.S. on PISA. And on each of the TIMSS fourth and eighth grade science assessments, only 7 countries scored significantly higher than American students. This paints a somewhat rosier picture of U.S. students.
Why do these scores matter?
Rankings based on international assessments are simple to understand—but they can also mislead. While researchers often shy away from using rankings in serious statistical analyses of test scores, they can have a substantial impact on political rhetoric, and consequently, education policy. Media outlets often take these lists and use them in headlines or sound bites, providing little context and furthering educational policy discussion that can often be misleading. To get the most value from U.S. participation in PISA and TIMSS, policymakers—and the public—should closely analyze the trends on both tests with caution and context.
—Louis Serino
Louis Serino is the Managing Editor of the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center Chalkboard.
Reed Timoner contributed to this post.
This post originally appeared on the Brown Center Chalkboard.

Graduation Rates and Race

On average, white and Asian students earn a college-level credential at a rate about 20 percentage points higher than Hispanic and black students do, a new report shows.


April 26, 2017,Inside Higher  education


College completion rates vary widely along racial and ethnic lines, with black and Hispanic students earning credentials at a much lower rate than white and Asian students do, according to a
 report released Wednesday by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.College completion rates fluctuate widely by race and ethnicity, a new report finds.
The center evaluated data from students nationwide who entered a college or university in fall 2010. The data represents students at two- and four-year colleges, students who studied part- and full-time, as well as those who graduated after transferring institutions.
Altogether, 54.8 percent of those students completed a degree or certificate within six years of entering a postsecondary institution, but broken down by race and ethnicity, those rates fluctuate by up to 25 percent.
White and Asian students completed their programs at similar rates -- 62 percent and 63.2 percent, respectively -- while Hispanic and black students graduated at rates of 45.8 percent and 38 percent, respectively.
These numbers likely won’t surprise most people who track higher education closely, as they fall in line with what other studies have found over the years, but “it will certainly reinforce the point that there’s more work to be done,” said Doug Shapiro, one of the lead authors of the report.
This report is valuable, he said, because it uses the most recent available data and accounts for part-time students and students who transfer to another institution during their studies. Other studies had not previously done this -- though that is because most have focused on federal databases, which have historically tracked only full-time, first-time students. The clearinghouse has become an alternative source of information on student outcomes and mobility because of its distinctive set of data.
“To the extent that the findings were surprising, it was simply that what we found did not change what we knew,” said Shapiro, who is executive research director at the National Student Clearinghouse. “For example, black and Hispanic students were no more likely to transfer and graduate somewhere else, and in fact, in most cases, they were less likely.”
The report also found that, nationally, students who entered a four-year public university earned a degree or certificate at a rate of 62.4 percent. Students who started at a two-year public institution had an overall completion rate of a credential of 39.2 percent. At four-year institutions, black men completed their degrees at the lowest rate (40 percent) and Asian women at the highest (75.7 percent).
Students who started at community college and then continued their educations at a four-year public institution experienced very different outcomes, depending on race and ethnicity. After six years, about a quarter of Asian students and a fifth of white students had finished their degrees, compared to about a tenth of Hispanic students and one in 12 black students.
“Community colleges have long been held out as engines of access to higher education,” Shapiro said, making these “disappointing results -- the rate at which students from underrepresented groups managed to complete that transfer from community college to a bachelor degree.”
For years, colleges and universities had been asking for racial and ethnic breakdowns of completion rates. After releasing those results for the first time this year, the National Student Clearinghouse plans to release updated data annually, Shapiro said. Each institution will also be able to see its own data and compare to national trends.
“We think that will be really powerful,” Shapiro said. “It will help [institutions] understand where they need to focus their improvements.”