International Benchmarking May Not Be a Good Bet for States



By 09/02/2009

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In August, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a new report summarizing the performance of U.S. students on international tests. There is always great excitement when the “league tables” from international tests are published.  Now states are starting to get into the game as well, signing up to participate in PISA and TIMSS to find out how the students of Massachusetts or Minnesota compare with their peers in other countries.

A new article by Mark Schneider, the former commissioner of NCES, warns that states may not get much bang for their buck from participating in international tests.  The article, posted today on the Ed Next website, explains that there are much cheaper ways to find out how the students in individual states compare to students in other countries (such as the statistical linking performed by Gary Phillips of AIR, who has estimated TIMSS scores for all states based on the states’ performance on NAEP).

Schneider also warns that while the purveyors of international tests can be very aggressive about developing policy recommendations based on the test results, the recommendations often include advice built on flimsy data and flawed analysis.

A video in which Schneider talks with Ed Next about his article can be found here.




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