The Roslyn School District just put its stamp on education after scores were released from a major international test this week. Roslyn students ranked number one among the nations of the world on the reading portion of the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) exam. Results in math and science were also among the highest in the world, and far ahead of the mean scores of other students in the United States.
The exam, district officials said, is widely recognized as the benchmark for the country and internationally.
“Like all school district leaders, I am concerned about test scores at all grade levels, but I am much more concerned about the body of skills and knowledge that our students accumulate over the course of their elementary and secondary years,” said Dr. Dan Brenner, Superintendent of Schools.
The top-performing nation/region in the world overall was China’s Shanghai province, which has a population of 20 million. However, Roslyn students bested China, Korea and Finland in reading, scoring a 591 to 556 for China and 539 for both Korea and Finland. In math, Roslyn scored 574, behind only China at 600.
In science, Roslyn’s 571 score was again second to China, this time by a slim 575-571 margin. The global average in reading is 493; in Math, 496 and in science at 501, while the mean reading score for the United States overall was 500. America’s mean math score was 487 and its mean science score stood at 502.
District officials said they wanted students to take the PISA test in response to certain educational controversies: the many state exams New York students take and the ongoing concern over the United States seems to be lagging behind the rest of the world.
“Roslyn has carefully avoided taking an instructional approach that ‘teaches to the test’– even as we acknowledge that standardized tests have become increasingly important to public perceptions of school performance,” Brenner said. “The PISA results and other factors confirm our confidence in the consistent, comprehensive and successful instructional model that our teachers are applying at all levels.”
The report on the PISA results, district officials said, was prepared for the school district by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the international forum that administers the test and of which the United States is a member. Every three years, 15-year-olds in more than 70 countries and economic regions take the PISA exam.
The triennial performance of 15-year-olds on PISA is usually cited whenever the news media report about how American students overall are not measuring up compared to students in other countries. Roslyn High School administered the test in late 2013 to a cohort of students chosen by the OECD as a representative sample.
District officials note several reasons why they view the results as a valid indicator of students’ readiness for college and careers:
No Roslyn students had any prior knowledge of the test, and there was no test preparation of any kind.
The sample tested was randomized by OECD; Roslyn High School had no say in deciding which students were eligible to take the test. The PISA exam is a rigorous assessment in which students are required to demonstrate their understanding in reading, math and science.
On many questions students can earn full credit through persuasive argument rather than by identifying a single correct answer. The test is taken by 15-year-olds who are nearing the end of their K-12 schooling, making it a more valid benchmark for college and career readiness than tests given in the elementary or middle school years (as in New York State).