Unlike many people around the country, Lindsay Henderson was excited when she saw her latest international test scores.
Henderson, a secondary mathematics specialist for the Utah State Board of Education, was asked to interpret the results of the state’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). If her boss wanted to announce a positive result for Utah, she said, she would be notified in advance, where she could tap her on the shoulder and review her PISA results.
Henderson said Utah students performed relatively well, exceeding the international average. Little has changed since the previous test round held in 2018. Loss of lifetime income due to failure to study Asked about enthusiasm, Henderson pointed out that Utah was hit less hard than other states, according to PISA results. Henderson claims this adds to the evidence he has from other assessments, such as his NAEP and AP grades, and proves Utah’s math instruction is working. .
If accurate, Utah would be an exception.
The PISA exam, an effort by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to assess education systems around the world, assesses 15-year-old students from all over the world. The results could increase competitiveness and spark speculation about world rankings.
Nationally, the results were darker than expected. When math, reading and science scores were released this month, they were seen as evidence that the billions of dollars the Biden administration has poured into education during the pandemic are working. Evidence of? The US moves up in the rankings – Until the 26thThis is an increase from 2018, when it was ranked 29th.
“The bottom line is this: During an extremely challenging time in education, the United States improved in the PISA global rankings in all three areas of reading, math, and science; unfortunately, many other countries did not. The ranking has gone down,” the education secretary said. Miguel Cardona said in an article: prepared statement.
But that masked the reality that math skills have declined since the last PISA test was administered. U.S. reading and science scores were about the same as in 2018, but Mathematics scores went down.
In that sense, early reactions to the relative position of the United States came after national tests last year revealed historic declines in American fourth- and eighth-grade math scores. It was similar to the conflict between the states.
So the question remains: What lessons can we learn from the test results so far?
The United States has some of the most accomplished math teachers, but they’re struggling, argues Cody Patterson, an assistant professor of mathematics at Texas State University.
Unlike some countries at the top of the PISA list, the United States does not have a national math curriculum, Patterson said. Its approach is fragmented and locally controlled. Although consistent with American culture’s desire to maintain autonomy for local educators, he says that can make collaboration across the school system difficult. From his perspective, that means the country’s system is leaving improvements and insights on the table.
However, American schools also currently have teacher retention problems. According to a survey of schools, Nearly half feel understaffedand American teacher turnover has increased.some observers have noted that effective teachers are particularly likely to leave the profession.
Teaching K-12 math requires a high level of skill, Patterson said. It takes years to build it, and much of it has to be done on the job, he added.
Schools are now increasingly relying on new teachers, or those with alternative or emergency qualifications. In Texas, where Patterson is an assistant professor, 28.8% of teachers were hired without state certification or permits last year. According to the Texas Education Agency. Patterson added that math and science are particularly prone to teacher shortages, whether due to attrition, difficulty recruiting, or simply increased demand.
“This is devastating because we’re going to lose a lot of the accumulated expertise that could potentially benefit the kids in the classroom,” Patterson says.
But there are other complications.
Be more critical
When it comes to mathematics, PISA emphasizes critical thinking and real-world problem solving.
After looking through the materials published by PISA, Patterson noticed that many of the questions focused on real-world situations and that the questions were often redundant. Students must scrutinize long stories and explanations to understand what the question is asking.
“I think, ‘Well, no wonder we’re not doing so well in America,'” Patterson said.
Patterson said the biggest barrier to teachers feeling like they can teach hands-on problem solving is the metrics by which they are measured. He points out that American instruction focuses on purely computational problems and problems that require easily measurable skills. These are about performing procedures that are not very cognitively demanding, he says, and there is usually only one approach that works, or at least the only one that the student knows.
Other analysts may have focused too much on how to perform mathematical procedures and not paid enough attention to building students’ conceptual understanding, which may have affected PISA scores. I agree with that.
Ross Weiner, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Education and Society Program, said PISA is designed as an application of knowledge test. This is in contrast to approaches that emphasize memorization and information retrieval. But conceptual understanding, he says, is an important aspect of children learning to recognize that they are interested in mathematics and motivated to engage with it more deeply. “If we’re not preparing young people to apply their knowledge to life and the real world, I think we need to rethink our goals,” Wiener added.
In Weiner’s view, improving math performance in a country where students seem more interested than ever in knowing the relevance of lessons to their lives means that math is a pain in the ass. It may mean overcoming a culture of being seen as something.
“The default of American education was that you just had to eat broccoli. This may not be fun, but it’s necessary to take more advanced courses to get into college.” says Weiner. He argues that the country really needs to figure out how to teach mathematics in a way that directly engages students, motivates them, and makes clear the relevance and significance of including mathematics in their toolkit.
In the meantime, some educators are exploring their immediate classes.
Utah’s Henderson believes part of the state’s success lies in the fact that Utah is one of the only states that mandates an integrated secondary math curriculum. All schools that receive state funding must teach consistent standards through high school, she says.
The curriculum has an emphasis on “.Required skills” she says. This is what state leaders and educators have heard from industry leaders, parents, and students.
But at the end of the day, it’s hard to parse out what works.
“Everyone wants to know what the secret sauce is, and there are a lot of variables in this huge system,” Henderson said, adding that Utah’s math performance during the pandemic She added that she always tells people that it’s because of the resilience of students, teachers, administrators and parents that she’s been able to stay on track.