Studiosi e ricercatori da tutto il mondo si rivolgono con una lettera ad Andreas Schleicher, direttore OCSE del Programme for International Student Assessment. Contestano la validità pedagogica e conoscitiva dei test, esprimono preoccupazione per la crescente ingerenza del settore privato in ambito educativo e invocano una moratoria. La lettera è stata pubblicata su The Guardian (OECD and Pisa tests are damaging education worldwide – academics). A stretto giro di posta è arrivata anche la risposta dell’OCSE, firmata da Andreas Schleicher.


Dear Dr Schleicher,

We write to you in your capacity as OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) director of the Programme of International Student Assessment (Pisa). Now in its 13th year, Pisa is known around the world as an instrument to rank OECD and non-OECD countries (60-plus at last count) according to a measure of academic achievement of 15-year-old students in mathematics, science, and reading. Administered every three years, Pisa results are anxiously awaited by governments, education ministers, and the editorial boards of newspapers, and are cited authoritatively in countless policy reports. They have begun to deeply influence educational practices in many countries. As a result of Pisa, countries are overhauling their education systems in the hopes of improving their rankings. Lack of progress on Pisa has led to declarations of crisis and “Pisa shock” in many countries, followed by calls for resignations, and far-reaching reforms according to Pisa precepts.

We are frankly concerned about the negative consequences of the Pisa rankings. These are some of our concerns:

• While standardised testing has been used in many nations for decades (despite serious reservations about its validity and reliability), Pisa has contributed to an escalation in such testing and a dramatically increased reliance on quantitative measures. For example, in the US, Pisa has been invoked as a major justification for the recent “Race to the Top” programme, which has increased the use of standardised testing for student-, teacher-, and administrator evaluations, which rank and label students, as well as teachers and administrators according to the results of tests widely known to be imperfect (see, for example, Finland’s unexplained decline from the top of the Pisa table).

• In education policy, Pisa, with its three-year assessment cycle, has caused a shift of attention to short-term fixes designed to help a country quickly climb the rankings, despite research showing that enduring changes in education practice take decades, not a few years, to come to fruition. For example, we know that the status of teachers and the prestige of teaching as a profession have a strong influence on the quality of instruction, but that status varies strongly across cultures and is not easily influenced by short-term policy.

• By emphasising a narrow range of measurable aspects of education, Pisa takes attention away from the less measurable or immeasurable educational objectives like physical, moral, civic and artistic development, thereby dangerously narrowing our collective imagination regarding what education is and ought to be about.

• As an organisation of economic development, OECD is naturally biased in favour of the economic role of public [state] schools. But preparing young men and women for gainful employment is not the only, and not even the main goal of public education, which has to prepare students for participation in democratic self-government, moral action and a life of personal development, growth and wellbeing.

• Unlike United Nations (UN) organisations such as UNESCO or UNICEF that have clear and legitimate mandates to improve education and the lives of children around the world, OECD has no such mandate. Nor are there, at present, mechanisms of effective democratic participation in its education decision-making process.

• To carry out Pisa and a host of follow-up services, OECD has embraced “public-private partnerships” and entered into alliances with multi-national for-profit companies, which stand to gain financially from any deficits—real or perceived—unearthed by Pisa. Some of these companies provide educational services to American schools and school districts on a massive, for-profit basis, while also pursuing plans to develop for-profit elementary education in Africa, where OECD is now planning to introduce the Pisa programme.

• Finally, and most importantly: the new Pisa regime, with its continuous cycle of global testing, harms our children and impoverishes our classrooms, as it inevitably involves more and longer batteries of multiple-choice testing, more scripted “vendor”-made lessons, and less autonomy for teachers. In this way Pisa has further increased the already high stress level in schools, which endangers the wellbeing of students and teachers.

These developments are in overt conflict with widely accepted principles of good educational and democratic practice:

• No reform of any consequence should be based on a single narrow measure of quality.

• No reform of any consequence should ignore the important role of non-educational factors, among which a nation’s socio-economic inequality is paramount. In many countries, including the US, inequality has dramatically increased over the past 15 years, explaining the widening educational gap between rich and poor which education reforms, no matter how sophisticated, are unlikely to redress.

• An organisation like OECD, as any organisation that deeply affects the life of our communities, should be open to democratic accountability by members of those communities.

We are writing not only to point out deficits and problems. We would also like to offer constructive ideas and suggestions that may help to alleviate the above mentioned concerns. While in no way complete, they illustrate how learning could be improved without the above mentioned negative effects:

1 Develop alternatives to league tables: explore more meaningful and less easily sensationalised ways of reporting assessment outcomes. For example, comparing developing countries, where 15-year-olds are regularly drafted into child labour, with first-world countries makes neither educational nor political sense and opens OECD up for charges of educational colonialism.

2 Make room for participation by the full range of relevant constituents and scholarship: to date, the groups with greatest influence on what and how international learning is assessed are psychometricians, statisticians, and economists. They certainly deserve a seat at the table, but so do many other groups: parents, educators, administrators, community leaders, students, as well as scholars from disciplines like anthropology, sociology, history, philosophy, linguistics, as well as the arts and humanities. What and how we assess the education of 15-year-old students should be subject to discussions involving all these groups at local, national, and international levels.

3 Include national and international organisations in the formulation of assessment methods and standards whose mission goes beyond the economic aspect of public education and which are concerned with the health, human development, wellbeing and happiness of students and teachers. This would include the above mentioned United Nations organisations, as well as teacher, parent, and administrator associations, to name a few.

4 Publish the direct and indirect costs of administering Pisa so that taxpayers in member countries can gauge alternative uses of the millions of dollars spent on these tests and determine if they want to continue their participation in it.

5 Welcome oversight by independent international monitoring teams which can observe the administration of Pisa from the conception to the execution, so that questions about test format and statistical and scoring procedures can be weighed fairly against charges of bias or unfair comparisons.

6 Provide detailed accounts regarding the role of private, for-profit companies in the preparation, execution, and follow-up to the tri-annual Pisa assessments to avoid the appearance or reality of conflicts of interest.

7 Slow down the testing juggernaut. To gain time to discuss the issues mentioned here at local, national, and international levels, consider skipping the next Pisa cycle. This would give time to incorporate the collective learning that will result from the suggested deliberations in a new and improved assessment model.

We assume that OECD’s Pisa experts are motivated by a sincere desire to improve education. But we fail to understand how your organisation has become the global arbiter of the means and ends of education around the world. OECD’s narrow focus on standardised testing risks turning learning into drudgery and killing the joy of learning. As Pisa has led many governments into an international competition for higher test scores, OECD has assumed the power to shape education policy around the world, with no debate about the necessity or limitations of OECD’s goals. We are deeply concerned that measuring a great diversity of educational traditions and cultures using a single, narrow, biased yardstick could, in the end, do irreparable harm to our schools and our students.


PISA letter:

Support the PISA letter: here


Andrews, Paul Professor of Mathematics Education, Stockholm University

Atkinson, Lori New York State Allies for Public Education

Ball, Stephen J Karl Mannheim Professor of Sociology of Education, Institute of Education, University of London

Barber, Melissa Parents Against High Stakes Testing

Beckett, Lori Winifred Mercier Professor of Teacher Education, Leeds Metropolitan University

Berardi, Jillaine Linden Avenue Middle School, Assistant Principal

Berliner, David Regents Professor of Education at Arizona State University

Bloom, Elizabeth EdD Associate Professor of Education, Hartwick College

Boudet, Danielle Oneonta Area for Public Education

Boland, Neil Senior lecturer, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand

Burris, Carol Principal and former Teacher of the Year

Cauthen, Nancy PhD Change the Stakes, NYS Allies for Public Education

Cerrone, Chris Testing Hurts Kids; NYS Allies for Public Education

Ciaran, Sugrue Professor, Head of School, School of Education, University College Dublin

Deutermann, Jeanette Founder Long Island Opt Out, Co-founder NYS Allies for Public Education

Devine, Nesta Associate Professor, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

Dodge, Arnie Chair, Department of Educational Leadership, Long Island University

Dodge, Judith Author, Educational Consultant

Farley, Tim Principal, Ichabod Crane School; New York State Allies for Public Education

Fellicello, Stacia Principal, Chambers Elementary School

Fleming, Mary Lecturer, School of Education, National University of Ireland, Galway

Fransson, Göran Associate Professor of Education, University of Gävle, Sweden

Giroux, Henry Professor of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University

Glass, Gene Senior Researcher, National Education Policy Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Glynn, Kevin Educator, co-founder of Lace to the Top

Goldstein, Harvey Professor of Social Statistics, University of Bristol

Gorlewski, David Director, Educational Leadership Doctoral Program, D’Youville College

Gorlewski, Julie PhD, Assistant Professor, State University of New York at New Paltz

Gowie, Cheryl Professor of Education, Siena College

Greene, Kiersten Assistant Professor of Literacy, State University of New York at New Paltz

Haimson, Leonie Parent Advocate and Director of “Class Size Matters”

Heinz, Manuela Director of Teaching Practice, School of Education, National University of Ireland Galway

Hughes, Michelle Principal, High Meadows Independent School

Jury, Mark Chair, Education Department, Siena College

Kahn, Hudson Valley Against Common Core

Kayden, Michelle Linden Avenue Middle School Red Hook, New York

Kempf, Arlo Program Coordinator of School and Society, OISE, University of Toronto

Kilfoyle, Marla NBCT, General Manager of BATs

Labaree, David Professor of Education, Stanford University

Leonardatos, Harry Principal, high school, Clarkstown, New York

MacBeath, John Professor Emeritus, Director of Leadership for Learning, University of Cambridge

McLaren, Peter Distinguished Professor, Chapman University

McNair, Jessica Co-founder Opt-Out CNY, parent member NYS Allies for Public Education

Meyer, Heinz-Dieter Associate Professor, Education Governance & Policy, State University of New York (Albany)

Meyer, Tom Associate Professor of Secondary Education, State University of New York at New Paltz

Millham, Rosemary PhD Science Coordinator, Master Teacher Campus Director, SUNY New Paltz

Millham, Rosemary Science Coordinator/Assistant Professor, Master Teacher Campus Director, State University of New York, New Paltz

Oliveira Andreotti Vanessa Canada Research Chair in Race, Inequality, and Global Change, University of British Columbia

Sperry, Carol Emerita, Millersville University, Pennsylvania

Mitchell, Ken Lower Hudson Valley Superintendents Council

Mucher, Stephen Director, Bard Master of Arts in Teaching Program, Los Angeles

Tuck, Eve Assistant Professor, Coordinator of Native American Studies, State University of New York at New Paltz

Naison, Mark Professor of African American Studies and History, Fordham University; Co-Founder, Badass Teachers Association

Nielsen, Kris Author, Children of the Core

Noddings, Nel Professor (emerita) Philosophy of Education, Stanford University

Noguera, Pedro Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education, New York University

Nunez, Isabel Associate Professor, Concordia University, Chicago

Pallas, Aaron Arthur I Gates Professor of Sociology and Education, Columbia University

Peters, Michael Professor, University of Waikato, Honorary Fellow, Royal Society New Zealand

Pugh, Nigel Principal, Richard R Green High School of Teaching, New York City

Ravitch, Diane Research Professor, New York University

Rivera-Wilson Jerusalem Senior Faculty Associate and Director of Clinical Training and Field Experiences, University at Albany

Roberts, Peter Professor, School of Educational Studies and Leadership, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Rougle, Eija Instructor, State University of New York, Albany

Rudley, Lisa Director: Education Policy-Autism Action Network

Saltzman, Janet Science Chair, Physics Teacher, Red Hook High School

Schniedewind, Nancy Professor of Education, State University of New York, New Paltz

Silverberg, Ruth Associate Professor, College of Staten Island, City University of New York

Sperry, Carol Professor of Education, Emerita, Millersville University

St. John, Edward Algo D. Henderson Collegiate Professor, University of Michigan

Suzuki, Daiyu Teachers College at Columbia University

Swaffield, Sue Senior Lecturer, Educational Leadership and School Improvement, University of Cambridge

Tanis, Bianca Parent Member: ReThinking Testing

Thomas, Paul Associate Professor of Education, Furman University

Thrupp, Martin Professor of Education, University of Waikato, New Zealand

Tobin, KT Founding member, ReThinking Testing

Tomlinson, Sally Emeritus Professor, Goldsmiths College, University of London; Senior Research Fellow, Department of Education, Oxford University

Tuck, Eve Coordinator of Native American Studies, State University of New York at New Paltz

VanSlyke-Briggs Kjersti Associate Professor, State University of New York, Oneonta

Wilson, Elaine Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

Wrigley, Terry Honorary senior research fellow, University of Ballarat, Australia

Zahedi, Katie Principal, Linden Ave Middle School, Red Hook, New York

Zhao, Yong Professor of Education, Presidential Chair, University of Oregon

* The Guardian, 6.5.2014, online qui. Per la replica OCSE vd. qui.


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16 Commenti

  1. La risposta di A:S: è del tutto generica. E non gli importa niente di
    “Pisa has contributed to an escalation in such testing and a dramatically increased reliance on quantitative measures.” Après moi le déluge! E nemmeno degli insegnanti pian piano ridotti a preparatori e somministratori di test, Pisa, Invalsi ed altri.
    “We assume that OECD’s Pisa experts are motivated by a sincere desire to improve education.” – ipotesi di cortesia – tutta da dimostrare.

  2. Credo piuttosto che gli esperti siano motivati da bustarelle erogate dalle potenti fabbriche di test: trasformare la scuola in una rivendita di manuali e materiale informatico sembra l’obiettivo dell’educazione moderna.

    • Anch’io lo credo, anche se il processo deve avere molte tappe di mediazione perché la cosa non diventi troppo evidente. Circolano molte informazioni che se messe insieme danno l’idea del business mondiale (globalizzato, ma piuttosto americanizzato) che ruota intorno a questa standardizzazione del sapere (piattaforme, modelli di test, come anche quello somministrato l’anno scorso in qualche università italiana ‘d’avanguardia’, comprato negli States e poi adattato, secondo loro, di cui poi non si è saputo niente pubblicamente; la prof. Kostoris ne aveva fatto la propaganda). Per non parlare della standardizzazione ideologica, che deve essere il vero obiettivo. Perché in questo modo prendi ad es. una mente italiana, allenata come quella sud-coreana, o vice versa, e la sposti come se fosse una cosa, nell’altro capo del mondo e finché ti conviene, tanto la prima è uguale alla seconda e tanto non sono più abituate all’atteggiamento critico (mi viene sempre in mente quel pezzo di Makarenko dove Igor deve far andare la volpe ad acchiappare la gallina attraverso un labirinto – test di intelligenza, problem solving oggidì – e Igor risponde che la sua volpe non ne ha voglia).

  3. Ho lavorato per anni nella ricerca pisa. Ho una posizione critica su come viene utilizzata l’indagine e alcune delle preoccupazioni sopra espresse sono complessivamente fondate, anche se, in generale, ho l’impressione che si attribuiscano a pisa le criticità e le debolezze che ciascun contesto manifesta nella propria politica educativa. Ricordo che non esiste un test valido in assoluto: dipende dalle finalità per cui somministriamo e dall’uso che facciamo dei dati. Per cui: siamo proprio sicuri che il problema sia pisa? Pisa confronta i risultati a prove semistrutturate. Non è metodologicamente attrezzata per dirci quale sistema educativo, meno che mai quale scuola, è qualitativamente migliore. Chi trae inferenze simili gioca sull’analfabetismo scientifico dell’utenza.
    Però: chi ha scritto la lettera e, più in generale, chi critica le prove pisa, è a conoscenza del fatto che oltre la metà delle domande sono a risposta aperta? È a conoscenza del fatto che molti quesiti richiedono di esplicitare criticamente il proprio punto di vista?
    O che una dimensione fondamentale costrutto di “reading literacy” è la valutazione critica del contenuto e/o della forma di quanto letto?
    Insomma: ho l’impressione che l’indagine pisa sia più contestata che conosciuta.
    Tuttavia rimango concorde con il succo delle critiche: in generale l’utilizzo fatto delle misure è aberrante e invalida in molti contesti la possibilità di utilizzarle per informare la nostra valutazione dell’equità e dell’efficacia dei sistemi educativi.

    • Ho avuto già modo di apprezzare Luisa Ribolzi in passato per gli interventi competenti e convincenti in tema di valutazione. Ne ricordo uno in particolare, apparso anch’esso sul sussidiario:
      “Oggetto di sarcasmo è in particolare la Rivista di suinicultura (cui si aggiunge Stalle da latte, che non è una rivista, ma un supplemento de L’informatore agrario), il cui titolo ha colpito la fantasia dei critici. Se il titolo è così importante, suggeriremo alla redazione di cambiarlo in “Sus Scrofa Domesticus Proceedings”… Del resto, Il Caffè [1764-1766] dovrebbe forse essere escluso dal novero delle riviste che hanno fatto la cultura italiana perché ha un nome che lascia piuttosto pensare alla cucina?” (L. Ribolzi e M. Castagnaro)

    • La Gelmini è riuscita a rendere omaggio ad un mito della nostra infanzia di baby-boomers, il Manuale di Nonna Papera. Confesso, però, che nel direttivo ANVUR io avrei nominato Franco Bonvicini (meglio noto come Bonvi), l’inventore delle Sturmtruppen. La descrizione geniale dell’autoritarismo burocratico e demente delle Sturmtruppen cattura l’essenza dell’ANVUR meglio di cento articoli di Roars. E se gli avessero negato la nomina all’ANVUR, Roars gli avrebbe chiesto di disegnare le ANVURtruppen in esclusiva per noi.

  4. […] Le lectiones universitarie nascono come letture, entro una cultura ancora manoscritta per la quale i testi erano pezzi unici rari e preziosi. In un mondo in cui le scritture si producono industrialmente, diventa facile credere che anche i lettori possano essere formati e valutati altrettanto industrialmente, tramite procedure e test standardizzati. […]

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