Good morning, folks, and welcome to today's Quality Counts 2012 chat, "What U.S. Schools Can Learn From High-Performing Countries," sponsored by McGraw-Hill.
Friday January 13, 2012 10:09 EdWeek Bryan
I've opened the chat for questions, so please, start submitting yours below. We'll be back at 2 p.m. ET today with our two guests. Hope to see you then!
Friday January 13, 2012 10:10 EdWeek Bryan
Folks, once again, thank you for joining us for today's chat, "What U.S. Schools Can Learn From High-Performing Countries," sponsored by McGraw-Hill. We'll be getting underway in just a few minutes.
We've gotten a lot of great questions already, but please, keep them coming in throughout the hour! We'll try to get to as many of them as possible.
Friday January 13, 2012 1:55 EdWeek Bryan
Before we get started, we wanted to let you know about this special offer: Save $20 on our Spring Leadership Forum, Scaling Up Student Success, by using the promo code CHAT20 when registering.
Friday January 13, 2012 1:55 EdWeek Bryan
We'll get going with the chat right at the top of the hour. I'm now handing the chat off to Sean Cavanagh, today's moderator, who was the senior writer of Quality Counts 2012.
Friday January 13, 2012 1:58 EdWeek Bryan
Hello everyone. Thanks for joining us for this chat. I'm Sean Cavanagh, a reporter for Education Week and one of the writers of this year's Quality Counts report, which focuses on what the U.S. can learn from high-performing countries and international comparisons.
I'll now ask our two guests to introduce themselves -
Friday January 13, 2012 2:01 Sean Cavanagh
I am Andreas Schleicher and direct PISA and other global comparisons of education systems at the OECD
Friday January 13, 2012 2:02 Andreas SCHLEICHER
Hi I an Alan ginsburg. Chaired the 21 country APEC Group that oversaw human resources
Friday January 13, 2012 2:03 Alan Ginsburg
Thank you both.
Alan, I will direct this question to you, from Tam. It deals with questions of student creativity -- a skill some Asian countries have sought to nuture in students.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:04 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From TamTam: ]
I'd like to know if there is a "CREATIVITY" index that is being used to evaluate students internationally. I taught in China this summer and while they were certain they could outperform us in math and science, many told me that had big problems teaching students to think creatively.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:04 Tam
Andreas, why don't you take this one, from performance of middle and upper income students
Friday January 13, 2012 2:05 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From Stephen SiegelStephen Siegel: ]
Because our PISA scores are pretty high when you look only at middle and upper income students, what do you think of the argument that our schools are fine and our real task is to eliminate child poverty?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:05 Stephen Siegel
Great question. Asians are concerned their students excessively memorize for Gateway tests. They look to U.S. producing students who are creative and able to apply knowledge on the job. U.S. labor productivity is indeed among the highest in the world. U.S. offers 2nd chance opportunities not possible under Asian Gateway tests that sort kids early.
But U.S. needs to learn from high-performers Asians how to:
-- Bring nearly all students up to internationally acceptable levels of performance & reduce outcome inequality tied to social class. -- Adopt teacher & management reforms for improving educational quality for all students, not just track test scores. Alan
Friday January 13, 2012 2:05 Alan Ginsburg
Alan -- here's one, about the structure of our ed system, and whether it hinders the U.S.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:06 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From David WassermanDavid Wasserman: ]
As near as i can tell from here in Canada, the US education system is in theory massively decentralized, to the local school board level, while centralizing pressures come from textbook vendors and large-scale testing programs. It seems to me that these competing perspectives may have led to incoherence in curricula. To what extent do the panellists believe that a centrally determined curriculum is a positive force for student achievement?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:06 David Wasserman
True, middle and upper income schools in the US do significantly better than low income schools, but even the average suburben upper income school has still a long way to go to catch up with the average school of the world's best performing education systems. What is also important that social background influences learning outcomes more in the US than is the case of many high performing systems
Friday January 13, 2012 2:07 Andreas SCHLEICHER
One of our stories in QC focuses on Canada, a country that outperforms us on several international measures, and where poverty seems to be less of a factor on student performance:
Andreas -- we've had several questions along these lines: How valid are these comparison, given differences in demographics, etc, between countries?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:09 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From GregGreg: ]
Are comparisons between the United States and other countries truly equitable/comapable when the U.S. has a pluralistic approach to teaching all children versus other countries in which students are deliberately grouped, tracked, and segregated into different ability classifications and restricted in their access to higher levels of education?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:09 Greg
I will speak from my math experience.U.S has thick math textbooks that repeat the same topics across grades because publishers need to cover the various topics states teach differently. Moreover, some of the state standards are very poor. The Common Core math standards were benchmarked against high-performing Asian countries and should be a real advancement.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:09 Alan Ginsburg
Alan -- here's a speculative question on the creativity/innovation theme
Friday January 13, 2012 2:10 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From MJMJ: ]
Where would drop-out Steve Jobs have been if he'd grown up in the South Korean educational system? From the Commentary that I read from Byong-Man Ahn, the culture and the school system doesn't appear to have a place for a Steve Jobs.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:10 MJ
Many foreign countries have sought to imitate aspects of the U.S. system -- particularly its focus on independent thinking, creativity. See a story I wrote from China a few years ago:
Sure, demographics differ across countries, but keep in mind that the US derives an advantage from this when compared internationally: Most OECD education systems educate virtually all of their 15-year-old students, while the US has one of the highest rates of non-enrolment. Most OECD education systems have an adult population (i.e. the parents of today's students) who are less well educated than US parents. Students in the US generally come from more advantaged social backgrounds than in the average OECD country. Last but not least, only Luxemburg spends more per student than the US does
Friday January 13, 2012 2:12 Andreas SCHLEICHER
Steve Jobs would have had great difficulty with the rigid Asian instructional approach. However, this approach does work well in bringing all students up to acceptable performance levels. We need a balance between creativity and uniformity.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:12 Alan Ginsburg
Andreas, to follow-up on that point: We often hear explanations offered from some observers for why we shouldn’t pay attention to U.S. test results – arguing that comparisons between U.S. students and their foreign peers aren’t valid, the tested populations aren’t comparable, and so on. You’ve said these are myths. Can you explain why?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:12 Sean Cavanagh
Alan -- here's a question from a reader arguing that we should look at these comparisons in a different way.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:13 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From JCBJRJCBJR: ]
Is it possible to get past the "how well are we performing" fixation in order to enable our educators to concentrate on the already known efforts that will position us with the high-performing nations?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:13 JCBJR
For PISA, the tested populations are certainly comparable, they comprise all 15-year-olds who are enrolled, and on average these are 97% of the 15-year-old population across countries.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:14 Andreas SCHLEICHER
The U.S. Common Core did a great job in math of pulling togehter the best domestic and international information from research on best practices. However, this was an exception. IES has no current capability to examine the best from research internationally and domestically.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:16 Alan Ginsburg
Andreas: Here's a question on comparisons of teacher education policies.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:16 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From AnthonyAnthony: ]
Has anyone examined teacher education and ongoing professional development to see what correlations exist in the more successful countries?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:16 Anthony
[Comment From Paul NicholsPaul Nichols: ]
One of the leading education reform spokespersons in the USA has reported that the USA is the only leading nation that has it's students attending school less than 220 days a year. Is this your understanding. If so, what impact do you think this has on our students learning?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:17 Paul Nichols
Alan: Here's a questions about the length of the U.S. school year, compared to those abroad.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:17 Sean Cavanagh
Hi Paul The number of days of schooling is only slightly different in Asia and the U.S> doesn't explain much about achievement differences. However, many other countries have year around schools, so they don't take the long summer break that we do. This may use days better.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:19 Alan Ginsburg
Yes, there is a lot of comparative data on this. High quality initial training and, more importantly, the ways in which education systems support their teachers in service are key factors common to most high performing education systems. A related factor is the work organisation that is around teachers and schools, many of the high performing systems have moved from an industrial model of education with a tayloristic work organisation towards a profession where teachers work as high-level knowledge workers who own their professional standards, with significant levels of professional autonomy. Finland in Europe, Japan in Asia and Canada in North America provide good examples for this.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:20 Andreas SCHLEICHER
Alan - We get many questions about the status of teachers in U.S. society. Here's one:
Friday January 13, 2012 2:20 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From RachaelRachael: ]
What can the U.S. do to increase the social status of teachers? In Finland, they're the equivalent of doctors or lawyers.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:20 Rachael
Andreas: Here's one on accountability systems of various countries:
Friday January 13, 2012 2:21 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From Prof. Jay AiyerProf. Jay Aiyer: ]
None of the highest performing nations have accountability based systems that link student test performance to teacher pay. Are we going in the wrong direction with this approach?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:21 Prof. Jay Aiyer
One pay them salaries comparable to other professionals. The U.S. is on the low-end of the international range especially after 10 or 15 years.
Equally important treat them as professionals. Singapore gives teachers a 100 hours of professional development a year, while our teachers have only about 20. Most other countries have clear career paths for teacher advancement, (e.g., master teacher) but many U.S. school systems do not.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:24 Alan Ginsburg
Alan: A question for you on the issue of parent engagement...
Friday January 13, 2012 2:24 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From QuibilaQuibila: ]
I'm curious to know how important is parental and community engagement in the academic success of children from other countries? Is there something that we can learn there, as well?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:24 Quibila
That's actually not quite correct, Singapore is a good example of a system that includes test performance as a criterion in teacher evaluation and pay schemes. However, most high performing education systems use multiple criteria and methods to evaluate teacher performance and structure pay systems, with usually much greater emphasis on professional judgement by school leaders and peers than performance on standardised tests. Real career perspectives and career diversity are other aspects.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:25 Andreas SCHLEICHER
Andreas: This one's for you:
Friday January 13, 2012 2:26 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From Hanawalds ClassHanawalds Class: ]
Question from my students--would the US "look" better if students in private schools were participating in these tests more frequently?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:26 Hanawalds Class
Parent involvement is tremendously important. Asian Confucius tradition contributes to parents stessing education. But Singapore & HK teachers for example are also graded on parent and community out-reach.
However, U.S. national policy does little to help our parents get involved other than publishing school test scores. With proper school outreach and broad access to new online learning, there is a lot most U.S. parents can do to help their children succeed.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:26 Alan Ginsburg
Alan: A question on decentralization of ed systems/government:
Friday January 13, 2012 2:28 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From GuestGuest: ]
If decentralization is part of the issue, how would that be accomplished without a massive federal department where successes and failures could be buried in red tape?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:28 Guest
Private schools are covered in PISA just like public schools (the PISA samples are representative of the 15-year-old population, wherevery they are enrolled). But note that, like in other countries, private schools (or charter schools for that matter) in the US do not outperform public schools once you appropriately account for the social background of students and schools.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:29 Andreas SCHLEICHER
A question for our readers: How important do you believe U.S. test performance on international tests are, in terms of predicting our future economic prosperity? extremely important
( 32% )
( 54% )
( 10% )
( 4% )
Friday January 13, 2012 2:29
Andreas -- for you:
Friday January 13, 2012 2:29 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From APECedAPECed: ]
Point of clarification: Is Andreas saying the US sample has "creamed" off the top due to our drop-out rate?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:29 APECed
We've had a bunch of questions about teacher policies in high-performing countries: How teachers are recruited, retained, trained. See my colleague Steve Sawchuk's reporting on this in Quality Counts:
The Common Core Standards are a good example of the States getting together themselves and producing a more coordinated approach. However, the federal government can be a catalyst as in Race - To-The top funds to support state efforts. Also, in the areas such as research and test development where it is inefficient for each state to conduct their own activities, federal efforts imporve efficiency. . Finally, in the case of equity, a strong direct federal policy is needed to ensure pupil rights and adequate educational opportunities.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:33 Alan Ginsburg
The advantage the US has because its proportion of 15-year-olds enrolled in school is slightly lower (because of higher dropout) than on average across OECD countries is very small so the impact on performance is negligible. The point I was making was the opposite: The claim that comparisons are unfair because the "US tests everyone and others only test their best students" is enrirely unfounded (it was true in the 1970s and to some extent in the 1980s but since then most industrialilsed nations have overtaken the US in the share of 15-year-olds enrolled in education).
Friday January 13, 2012 2:34 Andreas SCHLEICHER
Many countries take a different approach to testing than the U.S. does. One difference: accountability (penalties, sanctions, rewards) tend to follow school and districts (and perhaps in the future, teachers). In other countries, high-stakes tests and gateway exams mean the accountability falls on students:
Andreas: Here's a question on working with immigrant/bilingual students, and what we know from abroad:
Friday January 13, 2012 2:35 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From KatieKatie: ]
Could someone talk about how other high-performing countries approach bringing recent immigrant/bilingual students & other lower-performing/minority students up to speed? Is there more to it than our belief that in other countries these students are simply placed in lower/less academic tracks?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:35 Katie
Alan: You've spoken about how some high-performing Asian countries tend to focus on implementing ed policies very well -- and refining them -- more than the U.S. does. Can you explain what you meant, and possible lessons for the U.S?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:37 Sean Cavanagh
The success of countries in raising standards among immigrant students varies widely. In many European countries and the US having an immigrant background translates into significantly lower performance. In Ontario 40% of students have an immigrant background but they show the same high performance than students without an immigrant background. Northern Europe and Asia also tend to do well in how they bring immigrant students and students with social disadvantage quickly up to speed.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:38 Andreas SCHLEICHER
Andreas: This one's for you....
Friday January 13, 2012 2:40 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From Lara ShovlinLara Shovlin: ]
What is the one thing that is most important in raising our scores (value on education, valuing our teachers, extended school year, parent engagement, etc.)? We hear so many complaints about our children being "taught to the test" instead of being taught to think, how to discover answers. How can we measure our "true" scores without doing the aforementioned?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:40 Lara Shovlin
Minnesota and Massachusetts participate in the TIMSS test -- and score quite well, outperforming many high performing countries. My colleage Sarah Sparks explores the implications...
Yes. Singapore, for example, developed their Harvard award-winning vocational education system from the U.S. Ohio State model. However, it took them years and they brought in the best from business to design high school courses (e.g., the Swiss-Hotel School). The U.S. has no staying power to continuously improve their strategies over a long (ten year) period.
School and teacher performance management systems also focus on continuous improvement of key education system components and success is externally monitored by inspectorates. The U.S. stress outcomes and expects high-quality to follow, but it hasn't happened.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:42 Alan Ginsburg
Alan -- thank you. Here's a question about how we measure achievement, and whether it's really what employers value.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:43 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From Lars JohnsonLars Johnson: ]
Do we define achievement too narrowly? On one hand US employers are behind standards which focus on reading and math. On the other hand, US employers' HR departments complain they can't find enough creative, adaptable problem solvers. What's the way out of this contradiction?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:43 Lars Johnson
I am not sure you can boil this down to one factor. But when you look across high performing systems, you see that they tend to share important features: They tend to place a high value on education and educators share the deep belief that competencies can be learned and all students can succeed. They attract great people into the teaching profession and support them well (not just by competitive salaries but with a work environment that is conducive for knowledge workers). They tend to have a balanced approach to accountability, with as much emphasis on lateral than on vertical accountability. And they invest the resources where they can make most of a difference, e.g. attract the most talented teachers to the most challenging classrooms and the best principals to the toughest schools. When you do those things and have an effective teaching profession, testing and external accountability becomes just much less important.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:45 Andreas SCHLEICHER
Andreas: on student teacher-ratios....
Friday January 13, 2012 2:47 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From Jason MastrosJason Mastros: ]
A question about student/teacher ratios in the highest performing nations: do they significantly differ from those in the U.S.?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:47 Jason Mastros
Hi Lars Yes, the U.S havs a problem with our State NCLB tests measuring achievement far too narrowly. We compared assessments between Asia and the U.S. on math tests. The Asian assessments were far more likely to use opened questions that involve multiple steps to answer the question than U.S. State tests, which were more multiple choice. A problem is that under NCLB State assessments are geared to differentiate and identify the low (below proficient) student and they do not focus on measuring higher level knowledge. New adaptive computerized testing could help design assessments that measure the full range of skills.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:49 Alan Ginsburg
Student-teacher ratios are in fact more favourable in the US than they are in many (though not all) high performing systems. In fact, it is interesting that most high performing systems tend to prioritise the quality of teaching and teachers of the size of classes, that is, they invest significant more than the US in teacher compensation, professional development, non-teaching working time to support students individually etc, and then pay for this with larger classes. The trend in the US has gone in the other direction over the last decade at least.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:49 Andreas SCHLEICHER
Andreas: This is a question we get a lot: If the U.S. is such a mediocre performer on these tests, why do we continue to high such high economic productivity?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:51 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From APECedAPECed: ]
Re: Productivity, the USA has been poor performers on TIMSS since it began in the 60s and yet our productivity has remailed high for years. What is the relationship between test score for middle-school students and long-term economic success?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:51 APECed
Alan: Here's a question on informal learning
Friday January 13, 2012 2:51 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From RandallRandall: ]
How important is it to recognize the importance of informal learning outside of schools?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:51 Randall
Productivity depends not just on the quality of the talent that you supply through the education system (where the US is an average performer) but also on the effectiveness with which you deploy your talent pool and labour-markets use their skills (where the US does very well). This being said, people like Hanushek have done interesting growth regressions with long-term trend series in which they show that improvements in test performance have a significant impact on long-term economic outcomes.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:53 Andreas SCHLEICHER
Andreas: A question for your on ed spending....
Friday January 13, 2012 2:55 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From LeiselLeisel: ]
If you look at UNESCO numbers, it's questionable whether education expenditures as a % of GDP has much of an effect on development. Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are the only European countries amongst the top 25 education-spending countries. I guess this means the US shouldn't necessarily spend any more than we do, correct?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:55 Leisel
I forgot that you also have to factor in the time lag. Two generations ago, the US had the highest high-school and college graduation rate in the industrialised world and, quite obviously, those people have a greater impact on the economic success of the US than today's school students.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:55 Andreas SCHLEICHER
Actually for the high-performing Asians informal out-of-school learning is quite a formal process. Because of high-stakes gateway tests, Asian parents (perhaps 2/3 to 3/4 of the families) send their children to "Cram" schoolsafter regular school to pass the test. These cover many additional hours of school a week. . There is now concern over equitable access to these schools and student burn out after high school.
Friday January 13, 2012 2:56 Alan Ginsburg
Alan, here's a follow-up for you:
Friday January 13, 2012 2:57 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From Meghan MurphyMeghan Murphy: ]
Alan, You said that the U.S. lacks "staying power" to continuously improve their strategies. Educators often tell me that this is because politicians like to implement the reform of the day. Does political involvement in education have to do with the lack of staying power? Or is it some other factor?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:57 Meghan Murphy
Yes, GDP (wealth of nations) now only accounts for about 6% of the performance differences among education systems as measured by PISA. Spending per students accounts for less than 20%. The way you invest your resources has a much greater impact. If you take Shanghai, the top performer on PISA, it spends little on education but directs the resources to where they can make the greatest difference. The US does the reverse, it is one out of four countries in the OECD are with regressive spending patterns,
Friday January 13, 2012 2:58 Andreas SCHLEICHER
Andreas: A final question for you on ed leadership
Friday January 13, 2012 2:59 Sean Cavanagh
[Comment From ChristopherChristopher: ]
What is different about educational leadership in higher performing schools outside of the US? Are there cultural norms for Ed leaders that enable success?
Friday January 13, 2012 2:59 Christopher
Hi Megan Change is almost inherent to our political system. I worked in Washington for 40 years and each new administration wants its own agenda and tends to disavow the previous one. However, some issues like systematic reform are transcending administrations and we do build a more coherent system overtime. However, the current great divide between Rep and Dem may create even more disconnected national policies in the future (e.g., get rid of Dept of Ed)
Friday January 13, 2012 3:02 Alan Ginsburg
This is difficult to measure. What our analyses show is that instructional leadership, that is, having school leaders focus their effort on developing human resources at school rather than just being administrators is an important factor. Also important are an effective management of evaluation and assessment practices as well as guiding high quality teacher evaluation. Of course, leadership across the system more broadly has a major impact on the coherence of policies across the system and over time as well as on consistency and fidelity of implementation which are all important ingredients of educational success.
Friday January 13, 2012 3:03 Andreas SCHLEICHER
Thanks, Alan & Andreas. I think we'll wrap up on that note.
Folks, we hope you enjoyed today's chat, "What U.S. Schools Can Learn From High-Performing Countries," sponsored by McGraw-Hill.
Special thanks go out to our two great guests Andreas & Alan, our moderator Sean, and for all of you for taking the time to participate today.
Friday January 13, 2012 3:04 EdWeek Bryan
Before you leave today, I wanted to remind you about our special offer: Save $20 on our Spring Leadership Forum, Scaling Up Student Success, by using the promo code CHAT20 when registering.
Friday January 13, 2012 3:05 EdWeek Bryan
Thanks to both of our guests, and to all of our readers
Friday January 13, 2012 3:05 Sean Cavanagh
We'll have a transcript of today's chat available at this same link within the hour. And make sure you check out Quality Counts 2012, if you haven't yet already.
Thanks again for joining us, and have a great weekend!
Friday January 13, 2012 3:05 EdWeek Bryan
What U.S. Schools Can Learn From High-Performing Countries
Friday, January 13, 2012, 2 p.m. ET
American elected officials and educators have become increasingly focused on international comparisons that rank the performance of U.S. students against that of their peers in other countries. In the view of many observers, the results are not encouraging, with the United States generally lagging well behind high performers—Finland, South Korea, and Japan, for example—in such subjects as math and science. But international comparisons have also sparked an ongoing debate about how such results should be interpreted and about the lessons U.S. officials should take from countries that outperform the United States. Our guests offered their insights on why international comparisons of academic skill matter, and how those comparisons should, or should not, be used to shape policy in U.S. schools.
Guests: Alan Ginsburg, former director of policy and program studies at the U.S. Department of Education, and past chair of the human resource development group in the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation, a 21-member coalition that promotes economic development, trade and investment across the Pacific Rim.
Andreas Schleicher, head of education indicators and analysis for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which administers the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA.
Sean Cavanagh, online editor, assistant project editor and senior writer, Quality Counts 2012: The Global Challenge—Education in a Competitive World, and assistant editor, Education Week, moderated this chat.
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