[Rasch] PISA critique in TES - a competition? - from a distance

Thomas Salzberger thomas.salzberger at gmail.com
Tue Sep 30 22:51:37 EST 2014

Agree, Trevor.

But it will help little to teach them, if they make a living from (or get
voted for) not-understanding. You can't awake someone who pretends to sleep.
These (sometimes apparently, sometimes really) simple minded politicians,
who always offer simple solutions, are so much more appealing to the voters.

Interestingly, there once was a chancellor (premier) in Austria in the
1980s, who almost always started his speeches with the opening statement
"Look, it is all very complicated." Ironically, he had the physical
appearance of being a bit simple-minded and he came from a province which
was and still is generally thought of as lagging behind (you know, every
country makes fun of a province ...). But, in fact, he was very aware of
problems being complicated. After only three years (in the 1980s this was
considered short term), he resigned. The punchline is, before becoming
chancellor, he had been minister of education for 12 years. In this era he
significantly improved the educational system in Austria - without PISA ;-)
. (Generally speaking, the 1970s were the golden years of modernisation in
Austria. Conservatives might disagree, though.)
Obviously, he was very aware of the complexity and managed to deal with it

Maybe we should not blame politicians (at least not in countries where
politicians still care about elections) but encourage them to acknowledge
complexity and reward those who do so.
A big ask, I know.
The trend points in the other direction. I desperately hope the next
general elections in Austria will prove me wrong.


2014-09-30 14:15 GMT+02:00 Bond, Trevor <trevor.bond at jcu.edu.au>:

> When a politician has a simple answer,
> It is because s/he doesn't fully understand the question.
> Sent from 007's iPad
> > On 30 Sep 2014, at 7:46 pm, "David Andrich" <david.andrich at uwa.edu.au>
> wrote:
> >
> > Totally agree with Steve.
> > David
> >
> > David Andrich, BSc MEd W.Aust., PhD Chic, FASSA
> > Chapple Professor david.andrich at uwa.edu.au
> > Graduate School of Education
> > The University of Western Australia
> > M428, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA, 6009
> > Telephone: +61 8 6488 1085;   Fax: +61 8 6488 1052
> >
> > www.matildabayclub.net
> > http://www.education.uwa.edu.au/ppl/courses<SPAN style="COLOR: nav
> > ________________________________________
> > From: rasch-bounces at acer.edu.au [rasch-bounces at acer.edu.au] On Behalf
> Of Stephen Humphry [stephen.humphry at uwa.edu.au]
> > Sent: Tuesday, 30 September 2014 7:19 PM
> > To: rasch at acer.edu.au
> > Subject: Re: [Rasch] PISA critique in TES - a competition? - from a
> distance
> >
> > Nicely said Thomas.
> >
> > Steve
> >
> > From: rasch-bounces at acer.edu.au [mailto:rasch-bounces at acer.edu.au] On
> Behalf Of Thomas Salzberger
> > Sent: Tuesday, 30 September 2014 6:55 PM
> > To: rasch at acer.edu.au
> > Subject: Re: [Rasch] PISA critique in TES - a competition? - from a
> distance
> >
> > Dear all,
> > I have been watching the discussion from a distance since education is
> not my field of expertise.
> > Consequently, I refrain from making specific comments about the content.
> >
> > Anyhow, in my mind, it is unfortunate that the controversy divides
> people who are all, by and large, building upon the same premises and
> sharing more or less the same understanding of what measurement is or what
> it should be. It is an all to frequent phenomenon that the
> Rasch-community/ies get(s) roped into discussions on issues we actually
> should not assume responsibility for.
> > I, personally, do believe that PISA is first and foremost a political
> issue.
> > Isn't there an obsession with comparing everything, everybody, and every
> country?
> > Admittedly, I do see the point. It is interesting to compare the outcome
> of educational systems of all sorts across all possible countries and
> derive conclusions. The ones lagging behind can learn from the vanguard.
> All fine. The objectives are commendable.
> > On the other hand, when does it come done to comparing apples and
> oranges?
> > Aren't there different curricula? Different emphasis from one country to
> another?
> > Different people? Culture?
> > Again, I am not an expert in the field, but I would think all of the
> above matters.
> > Or should all be the same all over the world? Globalization, same goals,
> one system?
> > Should we all teach to the PISA-test?
> >
> > Rasch is a wonderful tool. Providing us with very useful properties if
> requirements are met.
> > But isn't the frame of reference key? How far can we stretch the frame
> of reference when it comes to PISA? Apples and oranges, important? All
> fruits, after all.
> > However, what if one country tops the list in terms of apples but
> performs poorly in terms of oranges?
> > Whisk the thing and it is all the same?
> > I assume that multiple rankings (or a range of rankings) provide a much
> more valid representation, if one wants to apply Rasch. And I further
> assume everybody familiar with Rasch and measurement openly or secretly
> agrees. (Maybe I am wrong.)
> > The problem is, there is a political agenda. No politician (and the
> public) would have a clue what these fuzzy rankings would mean. They want
> an unambiguous answer. Simplicity rather than complexity. Damn thing that
> we live in a complex world.
> > In fact, I do understand politicians. If they want to derive clear
> conclusions, one equivocal ranking is much more useful. So, I do understand
> all who are behind PISA when they desperately try to achieve this.
> > The question remains what conclusions politicians actually draw anyway?
> > This is not a rhetorical question, I really do not know the answer.
> >
> > In my own country (Austria), I observed that
> > - politicians refer to the gap between Austria and the top (mostly the
> Finns) whenever they want to emphasise that something needs to be done and
> the thing that needs to be done is what they have always said needs to be
> done (Pisa as the justification that action is required, but nobody really
> thinks about how the apparently successful procedures followed in Finland
> could be implemented in Austria; when asked about that politicians say "Ah
> that wouldn't work here" or "That's too expensive, we cannot afford it").
> > - ruling parties acclaim any change to the better (even if it may only
> be a result of random fluctuation, it's different cohorts, after all), and
> claim that this is a sign that their policy is the right one
> > - whenever there is decline, ruling parties take this is evidence that
> there policy is still the right one but that we need more of that policy
> (we are on the right track, but it takes time, etc).
> > - the opposition claims the reverse.
> > No wonder that, as a citizen, I have doubts as to the usefulness of PISA
> once the results are in the hand of politicians. I guess experts in
> education might learn more from PISA results and they would know how to
> interpret ambiguity. Alas, it is not experts who rule this world (perhabs
> this is a good thing).
> > My fear is that the controversy about PISA will not be understood as a
> controversy primarily about PISA but more as one about the Rasch model.
> > People will say "PISA? Isn't that this test where this obscure Rasch
> model is applied?"
> > Or "No wonder that they are in a mess. Rasch just doesn't work."
> > This is not to say that we should not discuss the issue. It is one of
> the great scientific assets of Rasch measurement that we do not shy away
> from such debates. But we need to emphasise that problems, if any, are not
> due to the Rasch model but due to the immense complexity of the task.
> > How this can be done? I don't know.
> >
> > In any case, the purpose of Rasch is exposing problems, not necessarily
> solving them.
> > This brings us back to politics. Politicians don't fancy problems, they
> want solutions ...
> > Best
> > Thomas
> >
> > --
> > ___________________________________
> > Thomas.Salzberger at gmail.com<mailto:Thomas.Salzberger at gmail.com>
> > Thomas.Salzberger at wu.ac.at<mailto:Thomas.Salzberger at wu.ac.at>
> > ________________________________________
> > Rasch mailing list
> > email: Rasch at acer.edu.au
> > web:
> https://mailinglist.acer.edu.au/mailman/options/rasch/trevor.bond%40jcu.edu.au
> ________________________________________
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Thomas.Salzberger at gmail.com
Thomas.Salzberger at wu.ac.at
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