WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 2018 PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) results released today:
“Even in the face of Betsy DeVos’ and President Trump’s undermining of public schooling, it’s no coincidence that during an era of unprecedented teacher activism demanding more public investment, and a decline in high-stakes testing after the 2015 overhaul of federal education law, that we see an uptick in U.S. PISA results.
“We still have a long way to go. But on the fourth anniversary of the Every Student Succeeds Act, these results are an inflection point that suggest when you try to meet students’ instructional and socio-emotional needs, and listen to educators and parents—rather than penalize them based on test scores—you can start to move the needle.
“It’s a validation of what the international research holds to be true—that to really help students, we need to fund our future and adopt proven educational strategies and policies. Countries and schools that do well focus on student learning, including project-based instruction, and reject the fixation on testing. They provide children with safe and welcoming environments, including before- and after-school programs and wraparound services.
“The other volumes of the report contain a salient lesson for politicians charged with the responsibility of building the future of American public education. Despite half of all U.S. students coming to school with some kind of trauma, they have great resilience and optimism. They overwhelmingly believe education can make a difference—and if we fail to honor that optimism and commitment to the American dream, then we have failed as policymakers.
“Still, we need to be cautious of the OECD’s league tables that compare apples with oranges and pit nations against each other. Instead of ranking countries with very different educational contexts, we should focus on the underlying research that shows school systems work when teachers are well-prepared and well-supported, and when students are not just presented with standards but given the tools to meet them.
“One final note—one hopes that these results might encourage Secretary DeVos to cheer, rather than criticize, America’s public schools. They are the foundation of our democracy and the one institution that has the potential to help all children succeed. It’s time to strengthen them, not use these moments as a cudgel to advance her plans to destabilize, defund and privatize public education.”