Copenhagen drops PISA tests

Test, which has revealed students’ poor results in past, will no longer be given

Copenhagen students will no longer take the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams, the deputy mayor for child and youth affairs, Anne Vang (Socialdemokraterne), has decided.

Designed to measure students in reading, science and mathematics, the test was used in 2004, 2007 and 2010, and revealed several less-than-desirable results, begging the question of whether this is the real reason why it is now being declared obsolete.

In an interview with Politiken, Vang denied any connection between the decision and media coverage of the previous tests’ results.

"It hasn’t only been negative, there have also been positive results,” she said. “I am convinced that there will still be ample opportunity for journalists to write about the progress and decline in the quality report which will be made.”

Vang claims that the 700,000 kroner spent on the test, known as PISA København, could be put to better use.

She told Politiken that PISA København is starting to become a “tyranny test, which is fundamentally unhealthy for public schools”. Her goal is to invest the funds on the teachers. "We would rather spend the money on upgrading the skills of teachers. We must go from the test culture to the culture of evaluation."

Chantal Pohl Nielsen, senior researcher of governmental research organisation Anvendt Kommunalforskning, however, said that the council is likely to miss important information about students' academic abilities without the PISA exam.

"What Pisa does, which is unique, is to take a measurement on how well students are able to apply the academic knowledge that they have when they're 15 years old,” Nielsen told Politiken. “For example, how good they are at finding and evaluating information from a text. PISA also provides important information regarding the percentage of students who will be able to complete a secondary education.”

Nielsen also said that PISA København is a vital tool when it comes to detecting ‘red flags’ in the students’ learning process.

Jan Mejding, a researcher and PISA expert at Aarhus University, told Politiken that he agrees with Nielsen.

"Pisa is a broader reading test than the graduation exam,” he stated. “If the politicians want to try something new for a period, you cannot blame them. But after a while, you will be forced to pick up the issue again and see if the students have become better, and that can only be done by measuring them."

Past PISA results have revealed, among other things, that nearly half of children born to immigrants do not have functional reading capabilities, that boys had regressed the equivalent of a half year’s worth of studies between the 2007 and 2010 tests, and that Danish students perform poorly in maths.




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