December 3, 2013

Steve in Taki's: PISA, Piece by Piece

From my new column at Taki's Magazine:
PISA, Piece by Piece 
by Steve Sailer  
With the release of new PISA test scores for 65 countries’ 15-year-olds this week, it’s worth taking a look at TIME reporter Amanda Ripley’s latest book The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got that Way
Ripley came up with the clever idea of following three American high schoolers as exchange students in Finland, South Korea, and Poland. She chose Finland and South Korea because they are perennial PISA powerhouses, while Poland has improved its ranking significantly in this century. 
Her sample size of three American kids abroad is hardly foolproof, and yet it’s a start. Everybody has opinions on schooling, but few people have firsthand experience with different countries’ school systems because it’s immensely time-consuming to sit in on classrooms long enough that the teacher runs out of her dog-and-pony shows for visitors and finally gets down to normal business. 
Having only recently become interested in the topic of education, Ripley is a true believer in PISA scores. 
Should you be? In truth, nobody seems to really know how much to trust PISA and its ace salesman Andreas Schleicher. ... The sheer logistical challenge of what PISA attempts to do should raise common-sense questions about how perfectly 65 countries can be compared. Translation of tests, selection of representative samples, and prevention of local authorities putting their thumbs on the scale are challenges so daunting to get exactly equal around the world that most observers just seem to hope for the best and trust that Schleicher has somehow devised a globally level playing field.

Please read the whole thing there.


Anonymous said...

Poland outscores Israel by a mile, despite the stereotype Jews have of Poles as being less intelligent.

Anonymous said...

Dork rock.

Anonymous said...

Israel is a fifth Arab; assume that they tested at the Jordanian level, and you come out with a figure of 493 for the remaining 80%.

Anonymous said...

"Israel is a fifth Arab"

And there are far more shepardims than ashkenazers

IHTG said...

And there are far more shepardims than ashkenazers


Anonymous said...

Koreans are shallow idiots.
They are more eager for recognition than achievement.
Therefore, the recognition of being smart than the question of how intelligence should really be used.

Their pathetic attempt to win the Nobel Prize seems to operate on the same (lack of)principle.

Eyal said...

According to the Israeli press children who were tested in hebrew had a math results of 489 while children who were tested in Arabic scored 388 . That means that the gap between Arabs and Jews is 1 SD (100 point).
Consider that Ashkenazim/Mizrahim ratio among Hebrew testers is 50/50 , and that Ashkenazim typically score 0.75 SD (75 point) then Mizrahim
(e.g on the Israeli SAT) , then Ashkenazim score in math is about : 489 + 75 * 0.5 ~ 521 .

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the stereotype should be that poles weren't as cunning .

Mark Lee said...

Hi Steve:

I've met Amanda Ripley at an Oct 2013 education summit, and subsequently shared the following with her via e-mail on using the IB as an academic benchmark that is consistent throughout the world:

"While the CCSS is an US-only benchmark, a global academic benchmark is the International Baccalaureate’s Diploma program, which is held every May and November globally.

For the November 2012 IB Diploma examinations, Singapore (with 0.1% of the world’s population), accounted for 41 (23%) of the world’s 176 perfect IB scores. Singapore's Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) students received 37 of those perfect IB scores.


Do keep in mind that the IB programme tends to be reserved for schools that can afford the IB curriculum and examination costs, thus skewing the IB programme more towards private and higher-end public schools.

However the IB is consistent throughout the world, and is administered twice yearly. Thus it can provide more rapid feedback on education reform. "

Jerry said...

Koreans, and Asians in general, are materialistic and shallow, but they do perform... that's how Koreans now run the UN, the WHO, and the World Bank. Quite amazing, really.

A small inaccuracy about Poland, Korea, and Finland.

"First, all three achieved their independence only within the last 100 years."

Poland and Korea were both significant states in the pre-modern era, with Poland being dismembered by three powerful neighbors at the end of the 18th century.

The dates for modern independence are:

Korea: 1953 (or some years after the Korean War)
Poland: 1989
Finland: 1945 (with "Finlandization" as a restraining feature)

Florida resident said...

Dear Mr. Sailer:
You make references to your really illuminating articles in VDARE.
However, they are now closed to non-paying readers. I personally paid them the requested $ 100.00, but due to some glitch in their site never was I able to reap the benefits of being paying subscriber of VDARE.
Kind request to you:
Can you place your articles there to your other web-site, in a manner Derbyshire does it ?
Your Florida resident.

sunbeam said...

Decidedly unscientific, but I was always taken by the notion Spengler had that the environment (the stuff around them like desert and mountains) shaping the people.

Obviously in the long run, everyone knows the story on that.

But even in the short run I've always had half of a hunch that being back in the middle east per se, would have the effect of "dumbing down" Jews to the middle eastern average.

Perhaps not. But while I guess I idealize rationality as much as many people, I swear it sure seems like evolution and change happens a lot quicker than it is supposed to.

As an anecdote, just look at pictures of just Americans from just the past 100 years or so. It used to be much easier to pick out people with Eastern European and Italian ancestry for example.

Now it seems much harder. I know hairstyles and clothing can make a big difference, but it sure seems like such a trivial thing as facial features have kind of "normalized" in just a few generations.

Or maybe Americans have just gotten so fat it covers everything up.

As another anecdote, it is a pretty common stereotype to portray African Americans as having "big lips," a la the black shrimp guy in Forrest Gump.

My father once commented that you used to see black people with this sort of look, back in the 30's, 40's, and 50's. He said it baffled him as to why he turned around one day and didn't see it anymore.

I guess I may be ready for crystals next, but still...

Anonymous said...


maybe black americans didn't used to be 20% white.

Anonymous said...

Poland, Finland, and Korea have all traditionally been squeezed by 2 powers on opposite sides. Poland was flanked by Germany and Russia, Finland by Sweden and Russia, and Korea by Japan and China.

Anonymous said...

"Koreans, and Asians in general, are materialistic and shallow, but they do perform... that's how Koreans now run the UN, the WHO, and the World Bank."

Banky is US stooge, and WHO and WORLD BANK are jokes only good for name-dropping, thus perfectly suited for the vain Korean mind who care more about name recognition than real power or achievement.

Anonymous said...

"Korea by Japan and China."

Actually, Korea got on pretty good terms with China historically, esp given the size difference.
And Japan, except for Hideoyoshi's invasion in the 16th century, was no threat to Korea until the first half of the 20th century.

Poles has it worse in terms of political geography.

Anonymous said...

I've always had half of a hunch that being back in the middle east per se, would have the effect of "dumbing down" Jews to the middle eastern average.

More than half of the Israeli Jews tested aren't "back" in the Middle East, they are Sephardim and Mizrahim whose ancestors either never left the Middle East or returned to it centuries ago. Ashkenazi Jews make up less than half of the Israeli Jewish population. Also, the Israeli average includes low scores from a large number of Israeli Arabs.