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What Does PISA Say About Comprehensive Schooling? For A Good Local School For Every Child And Every Community

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What is PISA? The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international survey of educational achievement organised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). PISA assesses the knowledge and skills of students aged 15 in science, reading and mathematics and is carried out on a three-year cycle. The main subject or “domain" of PISA 2009 was reading. PISA 2009 has some interesting things to say on schools systems, choice and equity. For example: • Comprehensive school systems produce better and more equitable results “Systems that show high performance and an equitable distribution of learning outcomes tend to be comprehensive, requiring teachers and schools to embrace diverse student populations through personalised educational pathways. In contrast, school systems that assume that students have different destinations with different expectations and differentiation in terms of how they are placed in schools, classes and grades often show less equitable outcomes without an overall performance advantage.” (pg13) • State schools outperform private schools “Once the socio-economic background of students and schools is accounted for, public schools come out with a slight advantage of 7 score points, on average across OECD countries (in the United Kingdom public (state) schools outscore privately managed schools by 20 score points once the socio-economic background is accounted for).” (paragraph 53) • Dividing students into different educational tracks at an early age does not improve performance “In countries where secondary schools are divided into different educational tracks, overall performance is not enhanced. The younger the age at which this occurs, the greater the difference in student performance by socio-economic background, without improved overall performance.” (pg13) • Financial constraints limits school “choice” for low income families “On average, socioeconomically disadvantaged parents are over 13 percentage points more likely than advantaged parents to report that they considered “low expenses” and “financial aid” to be very important determining factors in choosing a school. While parents from all backgrounds cite academic achievement as an important consideration when choosing a school for their children, socio-economically advantaged parents are, on average, 10 percentage points more likely than disadvantaged parents to cite that consideration as “very important”. (pg 42) • School systems that offer parents more school choices are less effective in raising the performance of all children “These differences suggest that socio-economically disadvantaged parents consider that they have more limited choices of schools for their children because of financial constraints. If children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds cannot attend high-performing schools because of financial constraints, then school systems that offer parents more school choices for their children will necessarily be less effective in improving the performance of all students.” (pg 42) • Exclusions and school transfer of pupils reduces performance “In school systems where it is more common to transfer weak or disruptive students out of a school, performance and equity both tend to be lower. Individual schools that make more use of transfers also perform worse in some countries.” (pg 104) • The quality of teaching is key to educational outcomes “Recent research has emphasised the importance of teaching quality for learning outcomes. If there are ways in which higher investments can be used to recruit more qualified teachers or provide professional training that increases their effectiveness, this could be money well spent. The bottom line is that the quality of a school system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.” (pg 106) Quotes and page references from PISA 2009 Results: What Makes a School Successful? – Volume IV

Why Students Benefit from Comprehensive Education