United States' Poor Showing On PISA Math Not Due to Poverty

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Honest_Teacher, Dec 16, 2013.

  1. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

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    Dec 16, 2013

    Turns out it isn't the children of those on the lowest rungs of the SES economic ladder that are holding the U.S. back in comparisons with other countries. Instead, it's the children of upper-class parents who aren't performing when compared to their peers in other nations.

    "If poverty explained the U.S.’s poor performance, with scores of the bottom quartile dragging down and obscuring the alleged great performance of the U.S. top quartile, then the U.S. top quartile should do well internationally. However, when compared against the top quartiles in other countries, the U.S. rank drops from 26th to 32nd."

    Weak curriculum is probably the biggest contributor to poor PISA math scores.

    http://freakonomics.com/2013/12/16/u-s-math-education-still-in-the-doldrums-2/
     
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  3. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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  4. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Phenom

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    Dec 16, 2013

    And yet if we visited these other countries, and went into their classrooms, I could probably bet that every classroom teacher you meet probably isn't a bastion of educational genius. What you would find instead are students who respect education more, and parents who respect educators more and who are more willing to hold their children accountable for success at home rather than having the school raise their children.

    Though your post could also be completely sarcastic. I couldn't tell. :p
     
  5. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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    it was.:)
     
  6. EdEd

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    Dec 16, 2013

    I've tried twice now to open the spreadsheet and excel just stalls out, so it must be too big for my computer :).

    Peregrin brings up a good point, with the more general point being that we can't draw causal conclusions from these data - nowhere is there any evidence presented in the link to suggest curriculum is a causal variable (or even related). However, if the data are accurate, that would certainly be an interesting addition to the discussion about how the US compares with other countries.
     
  7. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

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    Dec 17, 2013

    Would you like to posit another hypothesis as to why it's our highest SES quintiles that are performing the worst against peers internationally?

    Regardless of the cause, it's clear that it's NOT poverty that's inhibiting student performance internationally; this is the argument made by many on the board for our lackluster PISA scores, and it's simply wrong.
     
  8. EdEd

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    Dec 17, 2013

    I think we could all think of many. Sure, curriculum is one. Hours of day in instruction, teacher quality, overall school quality, school climate, societal expectations or interactions with education, motivational structure of students, value orientation of students toward education, etc.

    I'm definitely not arguing that curriculum isn't the reason. I just don't think we can draw conclusions from the data presented.

    First, I'd love to look at the data more closely. Second, it's only one data source, so it would be interesting to disaggregate other data similarly. But, assuming it shows what you're saying it shows, and that other data would support the claim, it's definitely compelling, and certainly adds weight to your argument.

    Here would be my caveat: I don't think it shows that poverty is not affecting education, but I do think it would show that poverty would not be the only variable affecting education. For example, kids in the lower quartile could be scoring lower than kids from other countries because of more than one variable - curriculum, poverty, teacher quality, etc.

    But, you're right - that kids in the highest quartile are scoring significantly lower than kids in the same income group internationally would certainly be evidence that there are variables at play in the US other than poverty that are affecting achievement outcomes.
     
  9. 3Sons

    3Sons Connoisseur

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    Dec 17, 2013

    I'd say this analysis by the Freakonomics authors is a bit dubious. They break the population down into quartiles, which isn't exactly cutting it very fine. If he'd cut it into top and bottom half we'd be laughing at him, and this isn't really much better. And Shanghai wouldn't be the top quartile of China, it would be more like the top 1% economically.

    Also, the actual PISA report goes into SES in a fair bit of detail, and does indeed disagree that poverty "causes" the low scores. It DOES mention that SES makes a bigger difference in the US than in most other countries.

    The PISA report would also be a great place to look for some actual reasons. It notes that teachers in some countries get more time to prepare lessons (though they pay for it with larger classes). It also notes out-of-school tutoring and the like.

    I DO think the curriculum makes a difference, and do believe it has an effect on US performance. I do not know that it is the most significant factor.
     

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