School Choice, PISA and Policy

September 18, 2014 Stephen Murgatroyd
The educational neo-conservative ideologues are out in force in the US, UK and Canada and they are using their interpretation of the OECD PISA results as a smokescreen to justify their take on what needs to happen to improve school system performance and outcomes. Whether or not the PISA data supports their propositions, they make their claims anyway.


The latest example appeared in the Globe and Mail where Paul Bennett (a consultant ) argues a case for school choice being a “solution” to Canada’s education “problem” (see here).


An analysis of the PISA data sets shows that Bennett’s arguments are without foundation (setting aside some errors of fact in his writing). Writing in The Guardian using his in-depth analysis of the PISA data, Pasi Sahlberg of Harvard University makes clear:


School choice does not improve the performance of education system. School choice and competition between schools are related to greater levels of segregation in the education system. That, in turn, may have adverse consequences for equity in learning opportunities and outcomes. Indeed, successful education systems do better than those that have expanded school choice. All successful school systems have a strong commitment to maintain their public schools and local school control. PISA 2012 data show that the prevalence of charter and free schools with related competition for students have no discernible relationship with student learning.


and that what the PISA data actually shows is the failure of the neo-conservative market agenda for education (see here).



So rather that attend to the noise of Bennett and his cohort, pay attention to those who look to understand what the evidence really says.

Written by Stephen Murgatroyd - contact stephen.murgatroyd@shaw.ca for permissions.
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