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Big Comparisons, Little Knowledge: Public Engagement With PISA in the United States and Israel

Pizmony-Levy, Oren

Over the past two decades the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has become an influential actor in the education sector. This has been accomplished, partly, by the administration of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) since 2000. Overall, PISA is intended to inform the public, parents, teachers, and those who run education systems of the status of education in their country. Research shows that policymakers draw on PISA results when they launch and design education reforms. To date, however, we know very little about whether PISA is successfully informing the general public, which is the main sponsor and benefactor of PISA. Using public opinion surveys from the United States and Israel, this chapter examines knowledge and perception of PISA. Recent reports suggest that both countries are in the middle ranks of all countries participating in PISA, with the United States being in the middle ranks of OECD countries and Israel be! ing in the lower ranks of this group. Findings from public opinion surveys reveal three interesting patterns. First, in both countries, the public tend to underestimate how well 15-year-olds perform on international standardized tests. Second, college graduates are more likely than those with less education to underestimate the performance of teens on international standardized tests. Third, although the public seems to be misinformed about PISA results, we find considerable public support for PISA and international standardized tests more generally. Implications of the findings for policy and future research in the field of international and comparative education are discussed.

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The OECD's Impact on Education Worldwide
Emerald Group Publishing

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