On target for 21st-century learning? The answers (and questions) are now on line

by Tue Halgreen
Analyst, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills
Research Assistant, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

Put your pencils down. No, the test isn’t over; it might just be starting: the PISA-based Test for Schools has gone digital.

School leaders are calling the PISA-based Test for Schools one of the better indicators out there of how well students are prepared for 21st century learning. It’s a wake-up call as to whether a school’s students are ready to compete on the global market. When asked what students like about the test, one responded: “The questions were relevant to today’s society.”

The PISA-based Test for Schools (known in the United States as the OECD Test for Schools) was developed by the OECD to provide school leaders
and teachers with internationally comparable performance results as well as tangible insights on how to leverage improvements. Whereas PISA, the triennial international survey testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students, assesses education systems as a whole, the PISA-based Test for Schools assesses individual schools using the PISA scale to show how they compare with students and schools in education systems worldwide.
An online version of the test is launched today. The paper-based test was first piloted in 2012 and then offered on-demand to schools for the 2013-14 academic year. Since then, schools in the United States, the United Kingdom and Spain have signed up to participate, and participation is expected to grow with the availability of the PBTS online.
Schools that participate in the PISA-based Test for Schools administer the test to a random sample of 15-year-old students. The test questions are designed to simultaneously assess problem solving and critical thinking in three subjects: reading, mathematics and science. The test also includes a student survey questionnaire that gathers data about student attitudes and school culture. Schools receive a unique report of results that reveals school achievement in comparison to other schools nationally and worldwide- helping educators understand how to accelerate student achievement toward globally competitive outcomes.

School leaders have expressed positive feedback on participating in the PISA-based Test for Schools, repeatedly noting the value of the depth and breadth of the school report provided. The results have helped schools redefine their approaches to making improvements in areas such as curriculum, student’s skills base, and staff training, and helped them learn from global counterparts to make informed changes in policy and practice.

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