This year's report represents the third installment of volume three and the 13th issue overall since the publication began in 2000. Three studies are presented. All three revisit a topic that has been investigated in a previous Brown Center Report. The topics warrant attention again because they are back in the public spotlight.
Part one summarizes the recent controversy involving the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and its treatment of Shanghai-China. The PISA is a test given to 15-year-olds every three years in math, reading, and science. Sixty-five national and subnational jurisdictions participated in the 2012 PISA. When the scores were released in December 2013, no one was surprised that Shanghai-China scored at the top in all subjects. But what has been overlooked by most observers -- and completely ignored by the authorities running PISA -- is that Shanghai's population of
15-year-olds is sifted and shaped in ways that make its scores incomparable to those of any other participant.
Part two is on homework, updating a study presented in the 2003 Brown Center Report. That study was conducted at a time when homework was on the covers of several popular magazines. The charge then was that the typical student's homework load was getting out of control. The 2003 study examined the best evidence on students' homework burden and found the charge to be an exaggeration. Now, a little more than a decade later, homework is again under attack.The current study finds little evidence that the homework load has increased for the average student. Those with a heavy burden, two or more hours of homework per night, do indeed exist, but they are a distinct minority.
Part three is on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Forty-five states have signed on to the Common Core and are busy implementing the standards. How is it going? Admittedly, the Common Core era is only in the early stages -- new tests and accountability systems based on the standards are a couple of years away -- but states have had three or four years under the standards. Sufficient time has elapsed to offer an early progress report.