Stanford Research Identifies Economic Gap as Culprit in Unfavorable International Test Rankings

Stanford Research Identifies Economic Gap as Culprit in Unfavorable International Test Rankings

HAVE MONEY, WILL EXCEL?: A January 15 report out of Stanford's School of Education concludes that U.S. students compare unfavorably in international test score rankings "because a disproportionately greater share of U.S. students comes from disadvantaged social class groups." Conducted by Martin Carnoy (a prof at Stanford's graduate school of education) and Richard Rothstein (a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute), the report examines a decade's worth of test scores from the Program on International Student Assessment (PISA), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

When US students are sampled to mirror the "social class composition" of top ranking countries, rankings rise from 25th to 10th in math, and 14th to 4th in reading on the PISA exams, write the researchers. 

Surprisingly, the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students in the US and their wealthier peers is smallest when compared to "similar post-industrial countries" and rapidly closing-- a stat that top ranking countries such as Canada, Finland, and Korea surely wish they could claim. The equivalent gap is widening in those countries.

The PISA crowd is not happy about the Stanford report.

A day after Stanford released its paper, the OECD/PISA team shot out its comments, (Authors’ response to OECD/PISA reaction to this report) arguing that "the Carnoy/Rothstein paper contains several fundamental misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the PISA data. In particular, the paper claims that there are flaws in
PISA samples, which is simply incorrect and unsupported in the paper."

The two groups seem destined to hash it out in warring papers.

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