School Performance in Context

This month I had the chance to facilitate a discussion at GWU on the new report “School Performance in Context: Indicators of School Inputs and Outputs in Nine Similar Nations” put out by the Horace Mann League. The main author is Dr. James Harvey, Executive Director of The National Superintendents RoundtableJames Harvey

The report attempts to add complexity to international standardized test scores by viewing them in their broader contexts. The six dimensions in this report are Economic Equity (economic inequality, children’s poverty, infant mortality, intergenerational mobility), Social Stress (violent death, death from drugs, immigration, adolescent births), Support for Families (family benefits, benefits for young families, access to preschool, child neglect), Support for Schools (expenditures on schools, expenditure effort, class size, teacher workload), Student Outcomes (elementary school reading, secondary school reading, school completion) and System Outcomes (years of education completed, possession of secondary diploma, possession of bachelor’s degree, global share of high achieving science students).

The nine countries analyzed in this report are Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, The United Kingdom, and the United States.

The report lacked clear justification as to why these dimensions and measurements were chosen except to say they were chosen with the help of an advisory panel. While it did not attempt to make any causal (or even correlation) between these dimensions and their educational outcomes, there was one key takeaway:

The process of education is complex and should be looked at within its broader historical, economic, political, and cultural context. Nothing happens in a vacuum. This report helps expand the conversation about education by looking at the education systems of these 9 countries not only by their PISA scores but with a few more added dimensions.

As an aside, Dr. Harvey is a delightful person, and a group of us who helped with the event had lunch afterwards courtesy of Dean Feuer. I am grateful to be be here at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at GWU.


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