December 7, 2010
Statement by Randi Weingarten, President,
American Federation of Teachers,
On Results of the Programme for International Student Assessment
Fifteen-year-olds in the United States improved in science and held steady in math and reading, according to test results released today. In all three subjects, the United States scored close to the average among developed nations participating in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Finland, Singapore and South Korea were the top performers. Two jurisdictions in China—Hong Kong and Shanghai—also performed well.
WASHINGTON—What the PISA results tell us is that if you don’t make smart investments in teachers, respect them or involve them in decision-making, as the top-performing countries do, students pay a price.
The top-performing countries out-invest us, in terms of national commitment to all their students’ success; they out-respect us, in terms of the way teachers are viewed, treated and made a part of decision-making; they out-prepare us, in terms of the attention given to teacher preparation and to providing the wraparound services children need to succeed.
They set education policies that are sustained regardless of the person or party in office. They commit to across-the-board investments in education—and also in core services like healthcare and nutrition that strengthen education. These nations invest heavily in teacher quality by preparing, respecting and supporting teachers; work collaboratively; provide a curriculum that is uniform throughout the country; and create the school and classroom conditions necessary for learning. All stakeholders in these countries share the responsibility of improving student outcomes, and the notion of accountability extends to students and others, not just teachers.
The lesson from PISA is that figuring out what works and why starts with listening to frontline educators, valuing their experience and respecting their work.
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.