Posts Tagged ‘PISA’

Two Surveys Examine Perceptions of and Concerns about Postsecondary Education

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

The Princeton Review recently released the findings of their annual survey of college applicants and parents discussing their perspective on the admissions process. When asked about their biggest concerns about college, the biggest worry was the debt students and their families will take on to pay for a degree. Parents and students prioritized overall “fit” and a match with the student’s career interests when choosing a college. These results fit with the perceived biggest benefit of a college education – a better job and higher income. Given this information, communications about the opportunities CTE provides in these categories would be very beneficial as students begin to plan for their futures.

New America also just released national survey data about perceptions of higher education. This survey contains some promising data for community colleges. 64 percent of respondents believe that two-year community colleges “are for people in my situation.” More people (80%) believe that two-year community colleges prepare people to be successful. This is higher than four-year public (77%) four-year private (75%) and for-profit (60%). Additionally, 83 percent of respondents believe that two-year community colleges contribute to a strong workforce. This is higher than four-year public (79%) four-year private (70%) and for-profit (59%).

U.S. Teens Fall Behind International Peers in Financial Literacy Exam

The results of the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam on financial literacy have been released, and the results are less than promising. The financial literacy exam has been administered twice now to a select number of participating Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. US teens scored an average score of 487, two points below the international average. In 2012, American students received average scores of 492, while the OECD average that year was 499.

Though the U.S. has scored close to the OECD average in both exams, the results are still concerning, given that an average score signifies that one in five American teens do not meet the financial literacy benchmark, and are therefore unprepared for the complex financial decisions that come with choosing postsecondary and career options. This data becomes more concerning when examined through the lens of socioeconomic status. Students from lower-income families were less likely to score high marks on the exam, indicating that schools are not doing enough to close gaps in knowledge.

Odds and Ends

What is a community college degree worth? A research brief from CAPSEE aims to answer that very question. The report examines independent state evaluations and finds that, on average, the quarterly earnings for men and women earning associate degrees are $1,160 and $1,790 higher than non-completers respectively. Further, the study finds that degrees earned in vocational fields, as opposed to arts and humanities, yield higher earnings, with degrees in health-related fields the most lucrative.

Speaking of skills learned in college, a recent Gallup poll — conducted for the Business-Higher Education Forum — finds that, while 69 percent of employers will prefer candidates with data science and analytics skills by 2021, only 23 percent of college and university leaders say their graduates will learn those skills. The report provides eight strategies educators and employers can use to help close the skills gap.

Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager

By Ashleigh McFadden in Uncategorized
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American Students Demonstrate Lackluster Performance on International PISA Exam, but Signal Interest in Science-Related Careers

Friday, December 9th, 2016

Earlier this week, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) released results from the 2015 international PISA examination. The examination, which is administered every three years by the OECD, is designed to measure science, reading and math literacy for 15-year-olds in 35 OECD member countries in order to identify trends in student achievement and provide recommendations for international education policy. Each administration of the exam focuses on a different content area, and the emphasis for the 2015 exam was science literacy.

Performance in the United States was lackluster at best, with students placing 19th in science, 20th in reading and 31st in math compared to 34 other OECD countries. While there has been relatively no change in performance for science and reading over the past two iterations of the exam, math scores have fallen 11 points since 2012.

In response to this year’s assessment results, the OECD released five recommendations for policymakers in the U.S. to improve teaching and learning and promote equity:

  1. A clear education strategy to improve performance and equity should be implemented.
  2. Rigorous and consistent standards should be applied across all classrooms.
  3. Teacher and school leader capacity should be improved.
  4. Resources should be distributed equitably across schools – preferentially to those schools and students that need them most.
  5. At-risk students and schools should be proactively targeted.

 

These results are sobering, but they also spark a renewed urgency to improve the quality of education and leverage opportunities such as Career Technical Education (CTE) to equip students with academic and workforce-relevant skills and set the national economy on track for future growth.

Student Performance and Economic Growth

Performance on the PISA exam serves not only as a signal of student academic achievement, but also of career readiness. This is a research focus of Eric Hanushek’s, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In a recent panel discussion with the Alliance for Excellent Education, he argued that academic performance is tightly related to a country’s future economic health. Using PISA performance as a proxy for educational quality, Hanushek finds a positive correlation between international performance and future GDP growth. In other words, the more students learn, the stronger the economy is likely to be in the future. He also uses scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a U.S.-administered assessment, to find a similar relationship across individual states.

However, Hanushek makes sure not to conflate educational quality with quantity. He runs the same analysis using years of educational attainment instead of PISA scores and finds almost no relationship with economic growth. He draws the conclusion that “if you have more education without developing the skills, it doesn’t count.” This conclusion echoes a finding from this year’s PISA that, in terms of science literacy performance, how science is taught is a more important factor than investments in equipment and highly-qualified instructional staff. In the intersection between education and economic growth, it is not the inputs that matter as much as the skills, knowledge and abilities students develop along the way.

Students Signal High Interest in Science-Related Careers

In addition to testing subject literacy, the PISA examination surveys student attitudes and career preferences. Interestingly, the 2015 survey found that 38 percent of American 15-year-olds expect to work in a science-related career field by the age of 30, with health and science and engineering the two most prominent industries of interest, demonstrating that high school students are putting consideration into their future career goals. 

One strategy to prepare students for future careers in science is to increase participation in related programs of study. Programs of study guide learners through a sequence of aligned, non-duplicative courses that integrate academic and technical learning, span secondary and postsecondary systems and culminate in a credential of value. Participating in a program of study enables students to focus in a Career ClusterⓇ of interest and develop the skills and experiences they need to be successful in that industry. Rather than sampling a basket of different electives without developing depth of experience in any, program of study concentrators go deep in their learning. And research indicates that this could lead to positive student outcomes. According to a recent study, participating in a program of study increases the likelihood of graduation, overall grade point average and CTE grade point average. At scale, increased participation in programs of study may lead to increased academic performance and career readiness, spurring future economic growth.

With the release of the 2015 international PISA exam scores, there is newfound urgency to improve the quality of learning and increase opportunities for students to learn workforce-relevant skills, particularly in science-related fields. By leveraging high-quality programs of study, education policymakers can prepare students for future careers and spur national economic growth.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in News, Public Policy, Research
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