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BC Hosts Panel of International Ed Experts to Discuss Strategies for High Student Achievement

Chestnut Hill, MA (12-7-2010) – Results from the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) shows U.S. student performance in math, reading and science still hovering at or below the global average.

The U.S. overhauled its education leadership following the 2008 election and the recession took a huge toll on school spending, leaving little room to expect that U.S. 15-year-olds would show dramatic improvement in their international standing, said Lynch School of Education Professor Dennis Shirley, who, with Boston College colleague Andy Hargreaves, the Thomas More Brennan Professor of Education at the Lynch School, evaluated the Initiative for School Improvement in Alberta, Canada, the second highest-achieving jurisdiction in the world after Finland on the 2006 PISA report.

Fifteen-year-olds in the U.S. ranked 25th among their peers from 34 countries on PISA’s math assessment and ranked in the middle for their science and reading test results. China’s Shanghai, participating for the first time, produced the top scores, followed closely by nations such as Finland, Singapore, Canada, Japan and South Korea.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the results a “wake up call” for the nation’s primary and secondary schools. Shirley and Hargreaves will host an international panel of experts on campus December 9 to examine programs that have helped upgrade schools in the U.S. and in other nations.

“We need to rethink our strategies,” said Shirley, co-author with Hargreaves of the 2009 book The Fourth Way: The Inspiring Future for Educational Change. “It would seem that we have a real opportunity to learn from our northern neighbors in Canada. We share similar cultures in many ways, yet their PISA results are consistently higher.”

PISA, sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), produces a global report card by testing more than 470,000 15-year-olds . In 2006, students in Finland, Canada and Singapore lead in performance on math, reading and science skills.

In addition to their work in Canada, Hargreaves took a team to Finland, the world's top performer on the 2006 PISA, to evaluate for OECD how the country turned its educational system around by hiring highly qualified teachers who work collaboratively to secure high student achievement.

Thursday’s panel discussion – titled “Best in Class?” – will take place at 7 p.m. in Room 115, Fulton Hall. Guest speakers include:

* Mitchell Chester, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Primary and Secondary Education

* JC Couture, of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, Canada

* Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation in Helsinki, Finland

* Karen Lam, Ministry of Education, Singapore

* Steve Pophal, past president, National Association of Secondary School Principals, US


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