The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) are respected cross-national studies of pupil achievement. They have been specifically designed to study how countries’ educational systems are performing against one another, and how this is changing over time. These are, however, politically sensitive issues, where different surveys can produce markedly different results. This is shown via a case study for England, where apparent decline in PISA test performance has caused policymakers much concern. Results suggest that England's drop in the PISA ranking is not replicated in TIMSS, and that this contrast may be due to data limitations in both surveys. Consequently, I argue that the current coalition government should not base educational policies on the assumption that the performance of England's secondary school pupils has declined over the past decade.
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