Home > Uncategorized > Metrics Matter… and PISA is the Wrong Metric for What Employers Seek: Creativity, Innovation, and Collaboration

Metrics Matter… and PISA is the Wrong Metric for What Employers Seek: Creativity, Innovation, and Collaboration

February 14, 2017

One of the under-reported consequences of ESSA is the fact that STATES will be free to determine the metrics they use to hold schools accountable. As we have witnessed since the advent of NCLB, there is truth in the aphorism “what gets measured gets done”. Fearful that they will be identified as “failing” and potentially closed, public schools across the country have focused on the standardized tests used to measure “success”. In some cases, as described in this blog, schools have eliminated “frills” like art, music, libraries, and recess in order to provide more time for academics so students can succeed on the high stakes standardized tests.

But what if the standardized tests we are using are not a valid measure of success? What if they do not measure the skills employers are seeking today? What if the international standardized tests used to “prove” that our schools are “failing” as compared to other countries in the world are invalid?

According to a recent post by Valerie Strauss the “gold standard” PISA tests are NOT valid measures of national schooling, do NOT measure the skills employers seek, and do not “prove” anything about the quality of our schools. And here is the really bad news for “reformers” who use tests like the PISA as the basis for decrying our schools: there are three assessments of national performance that prove the opposite of what they assert. In fact, the US schools are doing an excellent job in developing the skills that matter to employers.

Ms. Strauss reaches this conclusion based on research done by consultant Nancy Truitt Pierce, a member of the Monroe School Board in Washington state who was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to his STEM Alliance Advisory Board. In monthly meetings with Seattle executives she found that they seek the following skills in hiring new staff:

What I hear from the key corporate leaders I meet monthly with is that they want candidates coming out of our public schools who are creative, innovative, collaborative problem solvers. Yes, the candidates must also have strong foundational skills of math, science and language arts but I suggest we are putting too much emphasis on the PISA math score as a key indicator of public school quality. I suggest there are other indicators that would serve us in much better ways. 

Ms. Pierce illustrates why the PISA scores are an invalid metric for a host of reasons and offers three alternatives to PISA, alternatives that measure the skills employers need in today’s workplace. She finds the United States comes out at or near the top on each of them:

• The Global Creativity Index ranks the United States second of 139 countries in the latest results, 2015.
• The 2016 Global Innovation Index ranks the United States fourth out of 128 countries.
• The 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Index ranks the United States first of 121 countries.

These findings undercut the notion that our schools are “failing” and will cause us to “fall behind” in the international competition. Moreover, when you drill down on her findings it becomes evident that our schools are “failing” on the PISA scores only because the US measures the performance of ALL students while other nations measure only the performance of children who come from the most affluent and well educated families.

Ms. Strauss concludes her post with the results from these assessments and this hope for the future from Ms. Pierce:

My hope is to get policymakers to:

1) Clarify our overarching goal to include creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship as key outcomes of our public school system.
2) Focus on the indicators above to demonstrate success.
3) Reduce the overreliance on math tests as the primary metric for success.

I have the same hope for State Departments of Education as they begin the process of designing accountability measures in the coming months. There ARE alternatives to the current metrics. We should use them.

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