We begin with the results for 15 year-old students taking the most recent Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) administered throughout many nations in the fall of 2015. While the PISA suffers in that it is not as closely aligned to our own standards and curricula as, say, are the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS); it does measure against globally acknowledged goals, and its results add evidence of student achievement to that of the other assessments.
Here are some caveats we should establish at the start of our review. First, we won’t examine the reading results because, for the most part, they have been flat for many years for most nations, including the U.S. Second, I do not want to make too much of small, marginal changes in results because they are not significant. But the data do suggest trends that ought, at least, for purposes of further study, encourage us to develop hypotheses about the direction in which we are headed. That direction, it should be clear, has basically not been positive since 2009. https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/idepisa/
Let us start with the observation that the U.S. has fallen 17 points in math and 6 points in science from 2009-2015.
The drop in science is discouraging because the U.S. had risen 13 points from 2006-2009. Had we made another 13 point gain from 2009-2015, instead of losing ground, we would be well above the PISA average and in the upper tier on the list of nations.
The drop in math is discouraging as well. The U.S. had fallen back from 2003-2006 but made a substantial gain of 13 points from 2006-2009. Had we made another 13 point gain by 2015, we would now be 10 points ahead of the average, having gotten even with or passed many of our peers that we now still lag.
It is a fact that many nations have been relatively flat in recent years, though there are exceptions, such as Norway, which has risen nicely. And some previous high fliers, such as Finland, have fallen considerably. But the main point is this: it is simply unacceptable that student performance in our nation has fallen further on an international measure that has long revealed our competing at a mediocre level.
While we have no proof of absolute causality, Margaret Spellings wrote almost four years ago that the correlation between stagnant/declining student results and weakened accountability is something we should worry about. I would simply echo her warning here. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/student-test-scores-depend-on-accountability/2013/12/26/66bab856-6cba-11e3-a523-fe73f0ff6b8d_story.html?utm_term=.467032d6e2c7.
As to Texas, I have written extensively on the state’s dramatic academic retreat over the last 5-7 years. http://sandykress.weebly.com/blog/-the-texas-8th-grade-math-drop-is-bad-and-its-statistically-significant; http://sandykress.weebly.com/blog/the-texas-problem-pretending-its-good-when-its-not; and http://sandykress.weebly.com/blog/forever-lowering-the-bar-in-texas.
It is, thus, extremely disappointing, though not surprising, to read news of the virtually across-the-board decline in the most recent achievement data. https://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/2017/07/07/texas-students-losing-ground-staar-tests.
Texas had been a leader in education policy from the early 1990s through the mid-2000s and had, as a result, garnered some of the most improved student achievement results in the nation. The state began to go soft as we entered the 2010s and thereafter actually promoted and implemented policies that lowered standards and eviscerated accountability.
It is true that Commissioner Mike Morath and certain Senate leaders are taking constructive steps that one hopes will cause a turnaround in the near future. On behalf of our young people, we certainly must hope so. During the time the educrats and their enablers have been at the helm, we have rather blithely sailed into a storm that is beginning to do extraordinary damage to our young people.