The latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment—which show that 15-year-olds in the United States improved in science and held steady in math and reading—illustrate that if you don’t make smart investments in teachers, respect them or involve them in decision-making, as the top-performing countries do, students pay a price, AFT president Randi Weingarten says.
In all three subjects, the United States scored close to the average among developed nations. Finland, Singapore and South Korea were the top performers. Two jurisdictions in China—Hong Kong and Shanghai—also performed well.
“The top-performing countries out-invest us, in terms of national commitment to all their students’ success; they out-respect us, in terms of the way teachers are viewed, treated and made a part of decision-making; they out-prepare us, in terms of the attention given to teacher preparation and to providing the wraparound services children need to succeed,”Weingarten says.
“They set education policies that are sustained regardless of the person or party in office. They commit to across-the-board investments in education—and also in core services like healthcare and nutrition that strengthen education. These nations invest heavily in teacher quality by preparing, respecting and supporting teachers; work collaboratively; provide a curriculum that is uniform throughout the country; and create the school and classroom conditions necessary for learning. All stakeholders in these countries share the responsibility of improving student outcomes, and the notion of accountability extends to students and others, not just teachers.
“The lesson from PISA is that figuring out what works and why starts with listening to frontline educators, valuing their experience and respecting their work.”
Highlights from PISA 2009 are available online. [AFT press release]

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