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Demystifying International Tests: What Makes the PISA Special?

Hint: It's not about comparing students across nations.

If you've heard about how American students are scoring lower than their international peers on standardized tests, you've probably heard about the PISA. (No, it's not an exam about a famous Italian tower that leans.) The Program for International Student Assessment is a test that's given every three years to measure and compare the achievement of 15-year-olds across the globe.

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When I was young, my mother constantly seemed to be talking about other people's kids and their academic successes. "So and so got into Dartmouth." "______ was the valedictorian of her class." Half the time, I didn't even know which child she was referring to, but I got the idea she had similar high expectations for me. And I found the whole exercise pretty annoying.

Well, according to Cal-State Long Beach Education Professor William Jeynes, my mom was apparently doing me a favor by letting me know that she expected me to do well in school. (I should add that she would make that demand pretty bluntly, as well.)

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