The assessment system is an embodiment of the principles of a nation or state’s education vision and values. Several of the high performing countries on the PISA have redesigned their assessment systems to accommodate new core values in education – e.g., highly educating all students and extending learning standards to include 21st century learning. A case in point is Finland, whose current education system exemplifies this new approach. Finland dismantled their rigid tracking system and is now more focused on formative, local assessment in the context of an inquiry curriculum, cohorts of highly trained educators working collaboratively to meet the needs of all students, independent learning, and student self-reflection, while also monitoring system wide achievements on international benchmarks. In the next section we take a look at some of the high performing countries’ approaches to assessment.
World-class Assessment Systems: Yesterday and Today As our discussion turns to attributes of those countries considered to have “world-class” education systems, it is informative to consider the results of international benchmarking assessments. One of the key international benchmarks for K12 educational systems is the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) periodically conducts the PISA assessments, which involve 15-year-olds in countries around the world. The latest results (2009) for reading, mathematics, and science indicate Korea and Finland are first and second in the world, followed by Hong Kong-China, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan, with the municipality of Shanghai-China also weighing in with high rankings. 34 During the 2010 release of the latest PISA results, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría stressed that, “Better educational outcomes are a strong predictor for future economic growth.” 35 In today’s knowledge economy, economic viability is intricately linked to the degree to which a nation’s educational system engages students in higher order, inquiry-based learning. 36 The OECD report also indicated that, “Countries of similar prosperity can produce very different educational results.” 37 Despite historical, cultural, and economic differences, there are some emerging commonalities among world-class performing nations on the PISA: 38, 39 • They have established clear, high quality learning standards for students. • Their learning standards emphasize complex thinking and problem solving. • Their use of assessments strongly aligns to the principles of learning from the research from the cognitive sciences (i.e., student motivation, engagement, efficacy for learning, self-reflection, and self-direction).
Assessment brief Metiri