Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

America’s Economic Future Does Not Hinge on PISA Scores

May 16, 2017 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

In recent years, Education Week has published at least one Commentary and one opinion-blog post that argue for the very strong connection between the United States’ economic future and international test results, specifically those from the Program for International Student Assessment. In a Commentary three years ago (“Why the U.S. Results on PISA Matter,” Jan. 8, 2014), the Hoover Institution’s Eric A. Hanushek argued that this country’s PISA scores—which measure the progress of 15-year-olds nationwide in reading, math, and science—had “huge economic ramifications.”

So great were the projected economic gains, according to Hanushek’s own research, that the potential payout was calculated to be “20 percent higher paychecks for the average [U.S.] worker over the entire 21st century.” Similarly, a post by Marc Tucker two years ago (“Why Some Economies Grow and Others Don’t,” Top Performers blog, www.edweek.org, July 1, 2015) lauded Hanushek’s analysis as “stunning.” Tucker predicted, based on Hanushek’s research, that the long-term gains of raising student test scores would “bring in about $67 trillion dollars over the next 50 years,” a figure dwarfing the $4 trillion lost over the Great Recession.

But what if Hanushek’s numbers were actually wrong? A recent study—our own—scrutinizes these causality claims, using the same sample of countries, data, and methods on which Hanushek basedhis findings. But since it takes a few decades for students to make up a major portion of the labor force, we compared test scores for one period (1964 to 2003) with economic growth in a subsequent period (1995 to 2014).

Surprisingly, the relationship, which once looked so strong, now looks highly suspect. We found that test scores, which originally explained 57 percent of the variation in gross domestic product per-capita growth among countries, now explained only 11 percent of the variation.The real casualty of Hanushek’s research is the causality claim, as well as the would-be policy recommendations built upon them.

We hope this helps readers to view the close link between PISA scores and a prosperous economy with a more critical eye.

Hikaru Komatsu

Associate Professor

Jeremy Rappleye

Associate Professor

Graduate School of Education

Kyoto University

Kyoto, Japan

A version of this article appeared in the May 17, 2017 edition of Education Week as America’s Economic Future Does Not Hinge on PISA Scores

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Education Civil Rights Groups Sue Tennessee Over Law Against Transgender Student Athletes
The state law bars transgender athletes from playing public high school or middle school sports aligned with their gender identity.
3 min read
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Mark Humphrey/AP