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Volume 116, Number 9 (2014)

 
by Richard Münch
The global dissemination of the scientific–technical civilization takes local life-worlds out of their historically grown context. They lose their traditional legitimacy and have to assert their validity in the light of the ruling scientific knowledge. An example of this mechanism is the definition of educational standards through the OECD’s PISA test series. This process can be interpreted as a procedure that subjects nationally diverging educational traditions to a common, globally uniform concept of education. In this framework, local cultures of education are exposed to an international comparison with educational standards claiming legitimacy by scientific authority. The old paradigm of education as internalization of a cultural tradition embodied in accumulated knowledge is being replaced by a new model of investing in the development of globally useful human capital and competencies. This process is fueled by the establishment of transnational networks of educational researchers and the increasing definitional power of international institutions, particularly the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). They oust national actors like teachers’ associations and ministries of education from their ruling position. This transformation is facilitated by the fact that it acts like a self-fulfilling prophecy generating precisely those expectations and governance structures required to deepen the transformation.
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by David Labaree
PISA has come up with an ingenious solution to the problem of how to measure student achievement across national school systems with different curricula. Instead of measuring how well students learn what they are taught in each system, it measures a set of economically useful skills that no one teaches. This paper explores PISA as one type of educational accountability system, based on how well students demonstrate mastery of particular cognitive skills, and compares it with the current state-level accountability systems in the United States (NCLB), which are based on how well students demonstrate mastery of the formal curriculum. Both, I argue, are cases of how we are shrinking the aims of education. One approach focuses on mastery of skills that are relevant but not taught and the other on mastery of content that is taught but not relevant. Neither seems a sensible basis for understanding the quality of schooling or for making educational policy.
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by Daniel Tröhler
This paper analyzes the political strategies of the early OECD stakeholders in transforming schooling from a cultural to a technological system. In doing so it focuses on the specific rhetoric these stakeholders used and how they were in need of standardizing different existing patterns of thoughts or institutional behaviors in the member countries.
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by Heinz-Dieter Meyer
The article analyzes the ideological and political context and mechanisms which have allowed OECD to become a major unchecked power in global educational policy making.
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by Heinz-Dieter Meyer, Daniel Tröhler, David F. Labaree & Ethan L. Hutt
Epitomized by the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the US government’s Race to the Top, “accountability” is becoming a pervasive normalizing discourse, legitimizing historic shifts from viewing education as a social and cultural to an economic project engendering usable skills and “competences.” The purpose of this special issue is to provide context and perspective on these momentous shifts. The papers point to historic antecedents, highlight core ideas, and identify changes in the balance of power between domestic and global policy makers.
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by Ethan Hutt
This paper examines the history and development of the GED in order investigate the allure, promise, and pitfalls of the idea of contextless assessment and accountability. In doing so, this paper reveals the importance of quantification as a means of creating useful abstractions as well as the the inherent danger of the perceived certainty of these kinds of metrics. The U.S. experience with the GED offers important lessons and insights in a world where PISA continues the reign of contextless, test-based accountability systems.
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by Harry Leonardatos & Katie Zahedi
Written by New York public school principals, Harry Leonardatos and Katie Zahedi, this article shares a shop-floor view of the impact of Race to the Top on New York Public Schools. The New York State Regents Reform Agenda involves mandated compliance with the federal legislation within Race to the Top (RTTT). Requirements related to an increase in student testing and the coupling of teacher evaluations to students’ scores on state tests is at cause in the deterioration the quality of public education in New York State. Imposed political directives are shown to have a role in creating confusion through untested policies, engendering a culture of distrust, diverting money from sound educational practice that are dismantling public schools in favor of market models.
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