PISA for Schools (PfS) has been considered the most demanding international external assessment for the past 10 years. Spain started to take part in this new OECD test in 2012 so that its wide network of public, private and charter schools could benefit from this performance and learning environment assessment as a fundamental tool to improve the quality of education.
PISA for Schools is considered a fundamental tool for improving the quality of education
Since this first year, centres from the Best Schools in Spain (BSS) network have completed the PfS test, a demonstration of their commitment to transparency with families and the rest of the educational community. These schools have established results dissemination and communication as hallmarks of their corporate identity.
However, just like many other families, you’re surely wondering …
Why would a school voluntarily participate in an external assessment? What is the value of the PfS?
PISA for Schools places emphasis on assessing young people’s mastery of processes, understanding of concepts and ability to adapt and take action in a variety of situations. One of its strongest points is that the assessment is skill-based, a much-needed perspective in education right now.
These tests are designed to discover students’ abilities, skills and aptitudes when solving problems, handling information and dealing with situations that they will face in their adult life.
PfS is a rigorous test that aims to measure students’ skills regardless of the education system where they have studied. It enables students to compare their results with youngsters from other countries without considering the learning methodologies used, the knowledge acquired or the skills strengthened in the classroom. In other words, it assesses the individual capabilities of each student and their corresponding level of mastery. At the end of the day, the ultimate and overarching aim of education is to prepare new generations to be successful in life.
PISA for Schools lets students know how prepared they are for adult life
What’s more, PfS places great value on students’ mastery of broader, more globalised, current and international topics such as energy consumption, biodiversity or human health.
Although BSS centres adopt a skill-based focus, as seen in their educational practice, they regularly complete this assessment to gain a broader, comparative vision of their own results trends. They have made significant progress in their quest for quality, as proven by reliable data endorsed by the OECD.
These constant efforts to achieve and consolidate educational quality reached an important milestone in 2015/2016, when CICAE (the association to which BSS schools belong) became the first association of schools to request a group report from the OECD.
The results of BSS schools in Pisa for Schools:
Both when assessed individually or as a group, BSS schools obtained very good results that are proof of students’ motivation and the centres’ excellent management of school life and the education provided to students.
In 2018, a group of 20 BSS schools performed better than the highest-ranking OECD countries in PISA
In February 2018, 20 BSS schools took part in the PISA for Schools test. After comparing the results of this group of schools with the overall average for students in Spain and for all OECD members in PISA 2015, performance was seen to be significantly higher in BSS schools.
Graph A: Average performance in reading, mathematics and science of the group of schools, compared with schools in Spain and the OECD in PISA 2015
|Average performance score||S.E.||Average performance score||S.E.||Average performance score||S.E.|
|Group of schools||553||8,5||571||10,4||555||11,3|
These results are not only down to high-quality teaching, but also the disciplinary climate found in BSS centres. The disciplinary climate has been strongly linked to performance, and low levels of discipline have a negative influence on students with the greatest learning difficulties.
The general study climate in school life benefits from reading habits, which are associated with the understanding of efficient learning strategies. Students’ reading skills not only affect reading, but also their performance in other fundamental skills such as maths and science.
In terms of reading strategies, the samples collected in BSS schools show that our students’ reading profile undoubtedly explains a large part of the centres’ overall good academic performance.
To make progress, we need to assess ourselves, compare ourselves with others, analyse our results and look for ways to improve our weaker points.
In June 2021, the association that promoted the participation of BSS schools in the assessment was named ‘Best educational institution in terms of trajectory in PISA for schools from 2014 to 2020′ in recognition of its commitment to improving the quality of teaching. This recognition is partly due to BSS schools’ commitment to continuous improvement and assessment with objective data to keep moving forward.