International Tests Reveal Surprises at Home and Abroad
Policymakers and pundits raise alarms whenever international test results are announced. In December, upon release of new scores from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called them "unacceptable," saying they "underscore the urgency of accelerating achievement ... and the need to close large and persistent achievement gaps."
It was no different a little over two years ago, when the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, released its latest scores. Secretary Duncan said they showed Americans "napping at the wheel. ... As disturbing as these national trends are for America, enormous achievement gaps among black and Hispanic students portend even more trouble for the United States in the years ahead."
Such conclusions are oversimplified, frequently exaggerated, and misleading. They ignore the complexity of testing and may lead policymakers to pursue inappropriate...
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