The Programme for International Student Assessment
The Programme for International Student Assessment is a three-yearly assessment programme developed jointly by member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It commenced in 2000 and is now the largest international educational survey of its kind. It is aimed at assessing the broad educational achievements of 15-year-olds in English reading, mathematics and science and their preparedness for adult life. PISA is not constrained by the content of curricula, and its findings form a significant contribution to policy development in Ireland. For example, the results of PISA 2009 contributed to the development of Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life – Ireland’s national strategy to improve literacy and numeracy among children and young people, 2011-2020(Department of Education and Skills, 2011).
PISA is steered by member governments through the OECD, on the basis of shared, policy-driven interests. It is managed by a consortium of institutions that was led by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) up to and including PISA 2012 and is currently under the direction of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in the United States. Results for PISA 2012 were published in December 2013 and there will be some additional reporting in 2014. The survey design and assessment materials for PISA 2015 were developed during 2013 for a field trial in 2014 prior to the main study in 2015.
Each cycle of PISA focuses on a ‘major’ achievement domain and on two or more ‘minor’ domains. In addition, PISA collects detailed contextual information from school principals, students, and, in some countries, parents. In Ireland, a national teacher questionnaire for teachers of the major domain is also administered. In the first cycle in 2000, reading was the major focus. In the second cycle in 2003, mathematics was the major focus; in the third cycle (2006), science was the major focus. In 2009, the fourth cycle of PISA, reading was again the major focus, and in 2012, mathematics was the major focus. While 32 countries participated in PISA 2000, 41 were involved in the second cycle (PISA 2003), and 57 countries were involved in PISA 2006. Sixty-five countries/economies participated in PISA 2009 and 2012. Since 2003, all OECD member countries have taken part in PISA.
Computer-based assessment is becoming a core part of PISA. In 2009, an optional assessment of digital reading literacy was included, in which Ireland and 18 other countries took part. In 2012, computer-based assessments of reading, mathematics and problem-solving were added and administered in over 40 countries, including Ireland. For PISA 2015, work is underway to facilitate an entirely computer-based assessment though the infrastructure in some countries will not yet permit this transition. To support these developments, the field trial for PISA 2015 will include a comparison of students’ responses on similar items assessed using paper booklets and computers. In PISA 2015, as well as science, mathematics and reading, collaborative problem-solving will be assessed on computer, and a small number of countries (not including Ireland) will assess financial literacy. Also for the first time, Ireland will administer a parent questionnaire, and students and principals will complete digital, rather than paper, versions of the background questionnaires.
PISA is implemented by the Centre on behalf of the DES. It is supported in this work by a National Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from the DES and NCCA, as well as subject matter experts in English Reading, mathematics and science. For each PISA cycle, the OECD publishes an initial international report in the December of the year following the assessment – so for the 2009 cycle, initial results were reported in December 2010, and initial results for PISA 2012 were reported in December 2013. The Centre publishes national reports to coincide with the initial international publications. In addition, the OECD publishes subsequent reports on specific themes or optional assessment domains in the year following the publication for the initial results. So, for example, it will publish results on problem-solving in April 2014. The Centre will also publish additional thematic analyses during 2014.
Three reports based on the 2012 teacher survey have been published by the Centre. The first, concerning the implementation of Project Maths (a mathematics curricular reform taking place at post-primary level), was published in November 2012, and the second, concerning mathematics in Transition Year, was published in January 2013. A national report on the outcomes of PISA 2012 was published in December 2013. These and other reports for PISA can be found here.