Don’t Read Too Much Into It: What Brexit and U.S. Election Surprises Can Teach Us about PISA
The results of the Brexit referendum and U.S. presidential election will go down in history as the biggest surprises of 2016. The final results defied all predictions. The polls were wrong, as were the pundits. Though they predicted that the majority of Brits would vote to remain in the EU, more ended up voting to leave. Though they predicted a win for Clinton, Trump is the one moving into the White House this January. “From the US election to Brexit…the polls set voters and pundits up for a fall,” writes Siobhan Fenton, a correspondent for the UK newspaper The Independent.
There is plenty of head-scratching and hand-wringing over the fact that so many experts got it so wrong, but a generally agreed-upon conclusion is that the data these experts had absolute confidence in somehow fooled them or simply “died.” “I’ve believed in data for 30 years in politics and data died tonight. I could not have been more wrong about this election,” said GOP strategist and NBC analyst Mike Murphy the about the U.S. election on Twitter.
These two back-to-back spectacular failures of data-driven predictions remind us that data can be deceiving, misleading, and sometimes just quits working. Blind faith in data can have disastrous and long-lasting consequences; “…it [the failure of polls] serves as a devastating reminder of the uncertainty in polling, and a warning about being overconfident even when the weight of surveying evidence seems overwhelming,” writes the Economist shortly after the U.S. presidential election.
We are presented with two huge sets of data about education in the world as well as myriad interpretations. We saw the 2015 TIMSS data last week. And the influential international assessment program PISA has announced to release its 2015 results on December 6th. Without any doubt, pundits, journalists, and policy makers around the world will be commenting on the results, attempting to draw conclusions and make recommendations for educational policy and practices. For example, the Alliance for Excellent Education (the Alliance), a D.C.-based national policy and advocacy organization, has already declared December 6th PISA Day and created a website covering the results. It has planned a Deep Dive event the following day to discuss “PISA and the Global Economy.” Bob Wise, Alliance president and former governor of West Virginia, writes on the website:
PISA Day not only provides a look at student performance through an international lens, it focuses on what lessons can be learned from other high-performing nations to ensure U.S. students, especially those who are underserved, are prepared to compete in today’s global economy.
But if the PISA data, like most of the Brexit and presidential election data, is no good, would any conclusions Education in the Age of Globalization » Blog Archive » Don’t Read Too Much Into It: What Brexit and U.S. Election Surprises Can Teach Us about PISA: