This morning I had the privilge of attending a breakfast at the Beehive with a large group of principals, BoT chairs and other educators to hear Andreas Schleicher speaking about what we can learn from the PISA data.
I've referred to Andreas' TED talk in a previous blog post – his breakfast presentation covered a lot of what is covered in that video, with specific reference to New Zealand in the discussion. Some of his recent PPT material is also available online from previous presentions.
For those unfamiliar with the PISA research the Auckland Primay Principal's Association has shared a useful summary online reflecting what the PISA data tells us about NZ schools.
The PISA data seems to capture headlines whenever it is released, and is increasinlgy used by governments to inform policy and resourcing of education. Such decisions are not without controversy of course. The previous evening I had the opportunity to attend the launch of some research commissioned by the PPTA, titled "Who achieves what in secondary schooling? A conceptual and empirical analysis".
The research, conducted by LIz Gordon with a companion piece by Brian Easton, aims to answer a series of questions relating to the currently popular political discourse that one in five students are failing in secondary school, and explores more deeply a lot of the PISA data in the process. The closest to the politically popular 20% figure the researchers were able to find was that 14.3% of students failed to achieve proficiency level 2 on PISA reading – and a closer examination of this group showed that 74% were male and that socio-economic factors such as parental income and the number of books in the home were clearly contributing issues.
The key things I took from both meetings were:
- confirmation of the importance of data in our decision-making process when it comes to formulating policy and allocating resources at a national and local level,
- there is now a rich pool of data available for us to interrogate and use to inform these decisions, and
- we need to engage meaningfully with the data to ensure the conclusions we draw are indeed supported by the data and that superficial conclusions, or the use of the data to support pre-determined conclusions be tested through a thorough interrogation and analysis process.