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The Reliability of Trends over Time in International Education Test Scores: Is the Performance of England's Secondary School Pupils Really in Relative Decline?

  • JOHN JERRIM (a1)

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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J. Bradshaw , R. Ager , B. Burge and R. Wheater (2010b), PISA 2009: Achievement of 15-Year-Olds in Wales, Slough: NFER.

N Egelund . (2008), ‘The value of international comparative studies of achievement – a Danish perspective’, Assessment in Education, 15: 3, 245–51.

H. Goldstein (2004), ‘International comparisons of student attainment: some issues arising from the PISA study’, Assessment in Education, 11: 3, 319–30.

J. Micklewright , S. Schnepf and C. Skinner (2012), ‘Non-response biases in surveys of school children: the case of the English PISA Samples’, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, 175 (4): 915–38.

H. Wagemaker (2008), ‘Choices and trade-offs: reply to McGaw’, Assessment in Education, 15: 3, 267–78.

D. William (2008), ‘International comparisons and sensitivity to instruction’, Assessment in Education, 15: 3, 253–57.

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Journal of Social Policy
  • ISSN: 0047-2794
  • EISSN: 1469-7823
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-social-policy
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