Going beyond education policies – how can PISA help turn policy into practice?

by Andreas Schleicher
Director, Directorate for Education and Skills

How are policy makers in the United States using data to help districts maximise their impact? And, what tools do districts need to work together in order to build stronger communities?  The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in the United States has transferred a great deal of autonomy to states and districts. These local authorities are now responsible for transforming state and federal policies into strategies and practices that guide teaching and learning in the classroom. This allocated autonomy creates opportunities for states and districts to collaborate, but also adds an element of the unknown, since most decisions used to be taken at the federal level. Data are crucial to understanding the effect policies have on education systems at a local level. But, collecting the right kind of data can be challenging. 

The OECD’s triennial report on the state of education, the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA), can be a good starting point. Tracking trends over time, PISA allows policy makers to link data on student learning outcomes with data on students’ backgrounds and attitudes towards learning and on key factors that shape their learning, in and outside of school. PISA examines the relationships with low performance, what makes schools successful, including autonomy and accountability, and teacher-student collaboration.

A new online course developed by EdPolicy Leaders online aims to unlock PISA to reveal what is possible in education for US policy makers and education leaders. We hope it will enable educators to leverage the experience of the world’s leading school systems to improve policies and practice.

Understanding PISA results is a first step towards defining ways in which PISA data can be used to identify strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. education system. What then follows is creative thinking about what education leaders, schools, teachers, parents and students themselves can do to support policy actions that ensure every student is equipped with the skills necessary to achieve their full potential and participate in an increasingly interconnected global economy.

There is no single combination of policies and practices that will work for everyone, everywhere. PISA’s unique contribution to the education debate is that it shows policy makers and education leaders what’s possible and shares evidence of the best policies and practices across the globe.

For the next round of PISA in 2018, the OECD will take the assessment a step further and work with member countries to build a new framework which goes beyond testing students on their cognitive abilities. PISA will also examine if schools are helping students develop trust and respect, and are preparing them to be able to collaborate with others of different cultural origins.

PISA online course: How Do We Stack Up? Using OECD’S PISA to Drive Progress in U.S. Education
PISA 2012 Key Findings
PISA 2015 Assessment and Analytical Framework
OECD proposal for a framework to assess Global Competence in PISA 2018

Leave a Reply