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Get Ready: PISA Is Coming!

No, the famous leaning tower in Italy isn't being moved. But next week, the latest round of results from a high-profile international comparison of student achievement will be issued. Expect lots of analysis and probably some handwringing about why the United States isn't closer to the top of the pack.


PISA, short for the Program for International Student Assessment, is a periodic standardized testing regime that compares 15-year-olds across a host of industrialized nations. Next Tuesday, Dec. 7, the results of 2009 tests in reading, mathematics, and science will be released.

A number of events are planned beyond the actual announcement. For one, next Monday, the Alliance for Excellent Education will hold a webinar to provide background on PISA, describing what it measures, how the United States has performed on past examinations, and why the results matter for the nation's future. The discussion will be followed by an interactive conversation with experts using questions submitted by participants from around the country.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday afternoon, five organizations, including the Asia Society and the National Governors Association, will host a policy briefing on Capitol Hill about the results. On hand to review the results and their implications will be Andreas Schleicher, the head of the Indicators and Analysis Division at the OECD Directorate for Education. You'll be able to check this event out via a webcast.

And on Wednesday morning, the Finnish Embassy will host a briefing with the humble title: "Why Are Finnish Kids So Smart?" In fairness, that title was apparently borrowed from a Wall Street Journal headline from 2008. In any case, yes, Finland typically has been at or near the top on PISA results from previous years.

For a little more background on PISA, you might want to check out this EdWeek story from 2007 about the last round of results in science and math. Also, here's a blog post from last year that highlights some researchers' urging of caution in drawing broad connections between education policy and PISA results. And finally, here's the transcript of an EdWeek web chat from last year about the role of international tests in U.S. education.

Also, the National Center for Education Statistics hosts a web page with lots of information about PISA.

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