Thursday, May 15, 2014

World class academic performance in Newton

In October 2012, students at Newton High School sat for the Programme for International Student Assessment, also known as PISA, the international test given every three years which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by assessing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. The 2012 round of testing focused on mathematics, though students answered questions and were scored on reading and science as well.


The PISA website provides the following information about the assessment program: 

PISA is the only international education survey to measure the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds, an age at which students in most countries are nearing the end of their compulsory time in school. Around 510,000 students in 65 economies took part in PISA 2012 representing about 28 million 15-year-olds globally. More than 70 economies have signed up to take part in the test in 2015 which will focus on science. Schools in each country are randomly selected by the international contractor for participation in PISA. The selection of schools and students is kept as inclusive as possible, so that the sample of students comes from a broad range of backgrounds and abilities.

PISA is unique because it develops tests which are not directly linked to the school curriculum. The tests are designed to assess to what extent students at the end of compulsory education, can apply their knowledge to real-life situations and be equipped for full participation in society. The information collected through background questionnaires also provides context which can help analysts interpret the results. Since the year 2000, every three years, students from randomly selected schools worldwide take tests in the key subjects: reading, mathematics and science, with a focus on one subject in each year of assessment. The students take a test that lasts 2 hours. The tests are a mixture of open-ended and multiple-choice questions that are organised in groups based on a passage setting out a real-life situation. They and their school principals also answer questionnaires to provide information about the students' backgrounds, schools and learning experiences and about the broader school system and learning environment.

How did we do? In all three subject areas, Newton High School students scored significantly above the average of the United States as a whole and the average of the 65 economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes countries such as China, Germany, Korea, France, Japan, Canada, Singapore, and the UK. In mathematics, Newton High School students scored ahead of 56 world economies and behind only 9 others. In science, they scored above 63 of the 65 world economies, and behind only China's Shanghai region in reading literacy.

In summary, our students are performing at a world-class academic level. This is not a measure of just the best and brightest, but a cross-section of all of our students including those with special learning needs and others whose families are economically disadvantaged.  

This is no surprise to our parents or educators who work with our kids on a daily basis. It is another data point to demonstrate that Newton Public Schools' students are academically competitive with anyone in the world! 

The full PISA 2012 report for Newton High School is available on the Newton Public Schools website under News.

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