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No Country Left Behind: Rhetoric and Reality of International Large Scale Assessment

Feuer, Michael J.
Publication Year:
William H. Angoff Memorial Lecture Series
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Academic Achievement Angoff Memorial Lecture Series Education Reform International Large-Scale Assessments (ILSA) National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)


The 13th William H. Angoff Memorial Lecture was presented at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C., on February 18, 2011. Few arguments about education are as effective at galvanizing public attention and motivating political action as those that compare the performance of students with their counterparts in other countries and that connect academic achievement to economic performance. Because data from international large-scale assessments (ILSA) have a powerful effect on policy discourse, it is important to understand the limitations of these data as well as their benefits. This paper concentrates on three sets of cautions and caveats in the interpretation of ILSA and proposes a modest research agenda aimed at reinforcing the validity and utility of cross-national educational comparisons. Although aimed primarily at American policy and research audiences, the arguments in the paper are relevant to other countries for which performance on ILSA influences education reform.

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