Latest Issue
Special Issue: Democracy Beyond Border Edited by David Held and Robert Schütze, this special issue of Global Policy brings together a group of scholars to discuss and assess the extent to which democracy can crystallise beyond the nation state, and whether such developments are, in principle, desirable.

An Open Letter: To Andreas Schleicher, OECD, Paris

Heinz-Dieter Meyer and Katie Zahedi, and signatories - 5th May 2014
An Open Letter: To Andres Schleicher, OECD, Paris

Dear Dr. Schleicher,

We write to you in your capacity as OECD’s director of the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA). Now in its 13th year, PISA is known around the world as an instrument to rank OECD and non-OECD countries (60+ at last count) according to a measure of academic achievement of 15 year old students in mathematics, science, and reading. Administered every three years, PISA results are anxiously awaited by governments, education ministers, and the editorial boards of newspapers, and are cited authoritatively in countless policy reports. They have begun to deeply influence educational practices in many countries. As a result of PISA, countries are overhauling their education systems in the hopes of improving their rankings. Lack of progress on PISA has led to declarations of crisis and “PISA shock” in many countries, followed by calls for resignations, and far-reaching reforms according to PISA precepts.

We are frankly concerned about the negative consequences of the PISA rankings. These are some of our concerns:

-while standardized testing has been used in many nations for decades (despite serious reservations about its validity and reliability), PISA has contributed to an escalation in such testing and a dramatically increased reliance on quantitative measures. For example, in the United States, PISA has been invoked as a major justification for the recent “Race to the Top” program, which has increased the use of standardized testing for student-, teacher-, and administrator evaluations, which rank and label students, as well as teachers and administrators according to the results of tests widely known to be imperfect (see, for example, Finland’s unexplained decline from the top of the PISA table);

-in education policy, PISA, with its three-year assessment cycle, has caused a shift of attention to short-term fixes designed to help a country quickly climb the rankings, despite research showing that enduring changes in education practice take decades, not a few years to come to fruition. For example, we know that the status of teachers and the prestige of teaching as a profession has a strong influence on the quality of instruction, but that status varies strongly across cultures and is not easily influenced by short-term policy;

-by emphasizing a narrow range of measurable aspects of education, PISA takes attention away from the less measurable or immeasurable educational objectives like physical, moral, civic, and artistic development, thereby dangerously narrowing our collective imagination regarding what education is and ought to be about;

-as an organization of economic development, OECD is naturally biased in favor of the economic role of public schools. But preparing young men and women for gainful employment is not the only, and not even the main goal of public education, which has to prepare students for participation in democratic self-government, moral action, and a life of personal development, growth, and well-being;

-unlike United Nations (UN) organizations such as UNESCO or UNICEF that have clear and legitimate mandates to improve education and the lives of children around the world, OECD has no such mandate. Nor are there, at present, mechanisms of effective democratic participation in its education decision-making process;

-to carry out PISA and a host of follow-up services, OECD has embraced “public-private partnerships” and entered into alliances with multi-national for-profit companies, which stand to gain financially from any deficits—real or perceived—unearthed by PISA. Some of these companies provide educational services to American schools and school districts on a massive, for-profit basis, while also pursuing plans to develop for-profit elementary education in Africa, where OECD is now planning to introduce the PISA program;

-finally, and most importantly: the new PISA regime, with its continuous cycle of global testing, harms our children and impoverishes our classrooms, as it inevitably involves more and longer batteries of multiple-choice testing, more scripted “vendor”-made lessons, and less autonomy for our teachers. In this way PISA has further increased the already high stress-level in our schools, which endangers the well-being of our students and teachers.

These developments are in overt conflict with widely accepted principles of good educational and democratic practice:

-no reform of any consequence should be based on a single narrow measure of quality;

-no reform of any consequence should ignore the important role of non-educational factors, among which a nation’s socio-economic inequality is paramount. In many countries, including the United States, inequality has dramatically increased over the past 15 years, explaining the widening educational gap between rich and poor which education reforms, no matter how sophisticated, are unlikely to redress;

-an organization like OECD, as any organization that deeply affects the life of our communities, should be open to democratic accountability by members of those communities.

We are writing not only to point out deficits and problems. We would also like to offer constructive ideas and suggestions that may help to alleviate the above mentioned concerns. While in no way complete, they illustrate how learning could be improved without the above mentioned negative effects:

-develop alternatives to league tables: explore more meaningful and less easily sensationalized ways of reporting assessment outcomes. For example, comparing developing countries, where 15-year olds are regularly drafted into child labor, with first world countries makes neither educational nor political sense and opens OECD up for charges of educational colonialism;

-make room for participation by the full range of relevant constituents and scholarship: to date, the groups with greatest influence on what and how international learning is assessed are psychometricians, statisticians, and economists. They certainly deserve a seat at the table, but so do many other groups: parents, educators, administrators, community leaders, students, as well as scholars from disciplines like anthropology, sociology, history, philosophy, linguistics, as well as the arts and humanities. What and how we assess the education of 15 year old students should be subject to discussions involving all these groups at local, national, and international levels;

-include national and international organizations in the formulation of assessment methods and standards whose mission goes beyond the economic aspect of public education and which are concerned with the health, human development, well-being and happiness of students and teachers. This would include the above mentioned United Nations organizations, as well as teacher, parent, and administrator associations, to name a few;

-publish the direct and indirect costs of administering PISA so that taxpayers in member countries can gauge alternative uses of the millions of dollars spent on these tests and determine if they want to continue their participation in it;

-welcome oversight by independent international monitoring teams which can observe the administration of PISA from the conception to the execution, so that questions about test format and statistical and scoring procedures can be weighed fairly against charges of bias or unfair comparisons;

-provide detailed accounts regarding the role of private, for-profit companies in the preparation, execution, and follow-up to the tri-annual PISA assessments to avoid the appearance or reality of conflicts of interest;

-slow down the testing juggernaut. To gain time to discuss the issues mentioned here at local, national, and international levels, consider skipping the next PISA cycle. This would give time to incorporate the collective learning that will result from the suggested deliberations in a new and improved assessment model.

We assume that OECD’s PISA experts are motivated by a sincere desire to improve education. But we fail to understand how your organization has become the global arbiter of the means and ends of education around the world. OECD's narrow focus on standardized testing risks turning learning into drudgery and killing the joy of learning. As PISA has led many governments into an international competition for higher test scores, OECD has assumed the power to shape education policy around the world, with no debate about the necessity or limitations of OECD’s goals. We are deeply concerned that measuring a great diversity of educational traditions and cultures using a single, narrow, biased yardstick could, in the end, do irreparable harm to our schools and our students.

Sincerely,

Heinz-Dieter Meyer                                                         Katie Zahedi
State University of New York (SUNY Albany)                 Principal, Red Hook, New York

 

To signt he open letter please go to - http://oecdpisaletter.org/

Signatories as of May 4, 2014:

Andrews, Paul- Professor of Mathematics Education, Stockholm University

Atkinson, Lori - New York State Allies for Public Education

Baldermann, Ingo, Professor of Protestant Theology and Didactics, Universität Siegen, Germany

Ball, Stephen J. - Karl Mannheim Professor of Sociology of Education, Institute of Education, University of London

Barber, Melissa - Parents Against High Stakes Testing

Beckett, Lori - Winifred Mercier Professor of Teacher Education, Leeds Metropolitan University

Bender, Peter - Professor, Fakulty of Elektrotechnik, Informatik und Mathematik, Universität Paderborn, Germany

Berardi, Jillaine - Linden Avenue Middle School, Assistant Principal

Berliner, David - Regents Professor of Education at Arizona State University

Bloom, Elizabeth - EdD, Associate Professor of Education, Hartwick College

Boland, Neil - Senior Lecturer, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand

Boudet, Danielle - Oneonta Area for Public Education

Burchardt, Matthias - Academic Council; Society for Education and Knowledge, Vice-Chair, Cologne University, Germany

Burris, Carol - Principal and former Teacher of the Year, Co-Founder of New York Principals.

Cauthen, Nancy - Ph.D., Change the Stakes, NYS Allies for Public Education

Cerrone, Chris - Testing Hurts Kids; NYS Allies for Public Education

Ciaran, Sugrue - Professor, Head of School, School of Education, University College Dublin

Conneely, Claire - Programmes Director, Bridge21, Trinity College Dublin.

Danner, Helmut - Private Docent, Nairobi, Kenya

Deutermann, Jeanette - Founder Long Island Opt Out, Co-founder NYS Allies for Public Education

Devine, Nesta - Associate Professor, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

Dodge, Arnie - Chair, Department of Educational Leadership, Long Island University

Dodge, Judith - Author, Educational Consultant

Farley, Tim - Principal, Ichabod Crane School; New York State Allies for Public Education.

Fehlmann, Ralph - Coordinator, Forum for General Education, Switzerland

Fellicello, Stacia - Principal, Chambers Elementary School

Fleming, Mary - Lecturer, School of Education, National University of Ireland, Galway

Fransson, Göran - Associate Professor of Education, University of Gävle, Sweden.

Giroux, Henry - Professor of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University

Glass, Gene - Senior Researcher, National Education Policy Center, Santa Fe, NM

Glynn, Kevin - Educator, co-founder of Lace to the Top

Goldstein, Harvey - Professor of Social Statistics, University of Bristol

Gorlewski, David - Director, Educational Leadership Doctoral Program, D'Youville College.

Gorlewski, Julie - PhD, Assistant Professor, State University of New York at New Paltz

Gowie, Cheryl - Professor of Education, Siena College

Greene, Kiersten - Assistant Professor of Literacy, State University of New York at New Paltz

Gruschka, Gruschka - Professor, Educational Sciences, Goethe Universität Frankfurt, Germany

Haimson, Leonie - Parent Advocate and Director of “Class Size Matters”

Hannon, Cliona - Director, Trinity Access Programmes, Trinity College Dublin

Heinz, Manuela - Director of Teaching Practice, School of Education, National University of Ireland Galway

Hoefele, Joachim - Department of Applied Linguistics, University for Applied Sciences, Zurich, Switzerland

Hopmann, Stefan Thomas - Professor, Institute for Educational Sciences, Universität Wien

Hughes, Michelle - Principal, High Meadows Independent School

Jahnke, Thomas - Institute of Mathematics, Universität Potsdam, Germany

Jury, Mark - Chair, Education Department, Siena College

Kahn, Hudson Valley Against Common Core

Kastner, Marie-Theres - President of League of Catholic Parents, Germany

Kayden, Michelle - LOTE Teacher, Linden Avenue Middle School Red Hook, NY

Kempf, Arlo - Program Coordinator of School and Society, OISE, University of Toronto

Kilfoyle, Marla - NBCT, General Manager of BATs

Kissling, Beat - Psychologist and Education Science, Gymnasium and University Instructor, Zürich, Switzerland

Klein, Hans Peter - Chair, Didactics of Bio-Sciences, Goethe Universität Frankfurt

Kraus, Josef - German Teacher Association, President, Germany

Krautz,Jochen - Professor, Department of Art and Design, Bergische Universität Wuppertal

Labaree, David - Professor of Education, Stanford University

Lankau, Ralf - Professor, Media Design, Hochschule Offenburg, Germany

Leonardatos, Harry - Principal, High School, Clarkstown, NY

Liesner, Andreas - Professor, Educational Sciences, Universität Hamburg

Liessmann, Konrad Paul - Professor, Institut für Philosophie, Universität Wien

MacBeath, John - Professor Emeritus, Director of Leadership for Learning, University of Cambridge

McLaren, Peter - Distinguished Professor, Chapman University

McNair, Jessica - Co-founder Opt-Out CNY, parent member NYS Allies for Public Education

Meyer, Heinz-Dieter - Associate Professor, Education Governance & Policy, State University of New York (Albany)

Meyer, Tom - Associate Professor of Secondary Education, State University of New York at New Paltz

Millham, Rosemary - Ph. D., Science Coordinator, Master Teacher Campus Director, SUNY New Paltz

Millham, Rosemary - Science Coordinator/Assistant Professor, Master Teacher Campus Director, State University of New York, New Paltz

Oliveira Andreotti, Vanessa - Canada Research Chair in Race, Inequality, and Global Change, University of British Columbia, Canada

Mitchell, Ken - Lower Hudson Valley Superintendents Council

Mucher, Stephen - Director, Bard Master of Arts in Teaching Program, Los Angeles

Naison, Mark - Professor of African American Studies and History, Fordham University; Co-Founder, Badass Teachers Association

Muench, Richard - Professor of Sociology, Universitaet Bamberg

Nielsen, Kris - Author, Children of the Core

Noddings, Nel - Professor (emerita) Philosophy of Education, Stanford University

Noguera, Pedro - Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education, New York University

Nunez, Isabel - Associate Professor, Concordia University, Chicago

O'Toole-Brennan, Kathleen - Programmes Manager, Trinity Access Programmes, Trinity College Dublin

Pallas, Aaron - Arthur I. Gates Professor of Sociology and Education, Columbia University

Parmentier, Michael - Museum Pedagogy, Göttingen, Germany

Peters, Michael - Professor, University of Waikato, Honorary Fellow, Royal Society New Zealand

Pongratz, Ludwig - Professor, Institute for Pedagogy, Technische Universitaet Darmstadt, Germany

Pugh, Nigel - Principal, Richard R Green High School of Teaching, New York City

Radtke, F.O. - Professor (em), Education Sciences, Goethe-Universitaet Frankfurt

Ravitch, Diane - Research Professor, New York University

Reitz,Tilman - Junior Professor, Sociology, Universitaet Jena

Rekus, Juergen - Institute for Vocational and General Pedagogy, Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT), Germany

Rivera-Wilson, Jerusalem - Senior Faculty Associate and Director of Clinical Training and Field Experiences, University at Albany

Roberts, Peter - Professor, School of Educational Studies and Leadership, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

Rougle, Eija - Instructor, SUNY Albany

Rudley, Lisa - Director: Education Policy-Autism Action Network

Saltzman, Janet - Science Chair, Physics Teacher, Red Hook High School

Schirlbauer, Alfred - Professor, Institute for Education Sciences, University of Vienna, Austria

Schniedewind, Nancy - Professor of Education, Suny New Paltz

Schopf, Heribert - Professor, School of Pedagogics and Education, Vienna, Austria

Silverberg, Ruth - Associate Professor, College of Staten Island – CUNY

Sperry, Carol - Professor of Education, Emerita, Millersville University

Sjøberg, Svein - Professor (em), Science Education, University of Oslo, Norway

Spring, Joel - Professor, Education Policy, City University of New York

St. John, Edward - Algo D. Henderson Collegiate Professor, University of Michigan

Suzuki, Daiyu - Teachers College at Columbia University / Co-founder Edu 4

Swaffield, Sue - Senior Lecturer, Educational Leadership and School Improvement, University of Cambridge

Tangney, Brendan - Associate Professor, School of Computer Science and Statistics, Trinity College Dublin

Tanis, Bianca - Parent Member: ReThinking Testing

Thomas, Paul – Associate Professor of Education, Furman University

Thrupp, Martin - Professor of Education, University of Waikato

Tobin, KT - Founding member, ReThinking Testing

Tomlinson, Sally - Emeritus Professor, Goldsmiths College, University of London; Senior Research Fellow, Department of Education, Oxford University

Tuck, Eve - Coordinator of Native American Studies, State University of New York at New Paltz

VanSlyke-Briggs, Kjersti - Associate Professor, SUNY Oneonta

Vohns, Andreas - Associate Professor of Mathematics Education, School of Education, Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt

Wilson, Elaine - Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

Wittmann, Erich - Professor of Mathematics Education, Technical University of Dortmund

Wrigley, Terry - Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Ballarat, Australia

Zahedi, Katie - Principal, Linden Ave Middle School, Red Hook, New York

Zhao, Yong - Professor of Education, Presidential Chair, University of Oregon

 

Additional Signatories as of May 6, 2014

Bogdanov, Alexander – Ph.D., Teacher of Mathematics and Physics, Ricarda Huch High School, Brunswick, Germany

Böhm, Jürgen – Vorsitzender des Verbandes Deutscher Realschullehrer

Brell, Andrea, Studiendirektor, Herder-Gymnasium Minden

Brinkmann, Malte- Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, General education/philosophy of education, Institute of Educational Studies

Dammer, Karl-Heinz, Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg

Damtsheuser, Axel; teacher at Melanchthon-Schule Steinatal, Hessen, Germany

Dartenne, Corinna Maria, Academic Assistant, Leuphana University Lueneburg

Gerwig, Mario, Vorstand des Vereins LEHRKUNST, Switzerland

Graupe, Silja, Chair of Economics and Philosophy, Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences

Greve, Astrid, OStRin, Evangelisches Gymnasium Siegen

Hackl, Bernhard, Univ.-Prof. Mag.art. Dr.phil., Institut fuer Schulpaedagogik, Universitaet Graz, Austria

Hedtke, Reinhold – Bielefeld University, Faculty of Sociology

Heuck, Matthias, Lehrer, Darmstadt

Kammasch, Gudrun, Professor, Beuth Hochschule für Technik Berlin

Lind, Georg, Professor (em) University of Konstanz.

Maset, Pierangelo, Professor, Institut für Kunst, Musik und ihre Vermittlung, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg

Meidinger, Heinz-Peter – Vorsitzender des Deutschen Philologenverbandes

Scheurl, Walter, 1. Vorsitzender des Vereins “Wir wollen lernen!”, Hamburg

Schwaetzer, Harald, Kueser Akademie für Europäische Geistesgeschichte, Bernkastel-Kues

Sowa, Hubert, Professor, Pädagogische Hochschule Ludwigsburg, Fach Kunst

Uhlig, Bettina – Stiftung Universität Hildesheim, Institut für Bildende Kunst und Kunstwissenschaft

Von Garrel, Magda, Sonderpaedagogin und Autorin, Berlin