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School and District Level

International Standards – Examples

  • Participate in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), when possible. These global assessments are unique because they measure student progress compared to international standards and student’s competitiveness in the global workforce.
    • PISA is a global assessment administered every three years to 15-year-olds in approximately 60 OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) countries, including the United States.  
    • Representative samples of between 3,500 and 50,000 students are drawn in each country.
    • The test covers reading, mathematics or science each year it is given. In 2009, reading will be assessed.
    • PISA assesses how well students, near the end of compulsory education, have acquired knowledge and skills essential for meeting the challenges of today’s knowledge societies.
    • The assessment focuses on young people’s ability to use their knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges.
    • For more information about PISA, visit the Web site at
  • Sign up to participate in TIMSS (Trends in Mathematics and Science Study) assessments, which are given every four years, with the next round of testing to occur in 2011.
  • Teach the seven “survival skills” required in a 21st century global workforce. Included in those are: (1)

          1. Critical thinking and problem solving
          2. Collaboration and leadership
          3. Agility and adaptability
          4. Initiative and entrepreneurialism
          5. Effective oral and written communication
          6. Accessing and analyzing information
          7. Curiosity and imagination.

Practice Assessments for Comparison Purposes

  • Use online practice tests to see how students compare to international standards.
  • Review sample assessment items from PISA at:
  • TIMSS Challenge in Math and Science: These online assessments provide sample TIMSS assessments in math and science, for grades 3, 4, 7, 8 and 12.
  • Use Dare to Compare:, or (direct link to test). These online assessments have been created using TIMSS, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and CivEd questions. Sample assessments can be found in:
    • Math – grades 4, 8 and 12
    • Science – grades 4 and 8
    • Civics – grades 4, 8 and 9
    • Geography – grades 4, 8 and 12
    • Economics – grade 12
    • History – grades 4, 8 and 12.

Standards Comparison and Alignment Methods

  • Compare state standards to international standards and identify gaps. One possible process to use is:
    • Identify educators with depth of knowledge in the standards area to be compared. Is the content the student is being asked to know at the “knowledge” level, or is it at a higher level, such as comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis or evaluation? For information on Bloom’s Taxonomy, visit the Web site at:
    • At the end of the comparison, ask and answer: 1) Is there a gap in content (present in one set of standards and missing from the other) and 2) when the standards look like they match, do they really match at a greater depth of knowledge (Bloom’s Taxonomy)?
    • Review the work of Norman Webb, Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER), as a resource for alignment processes and models. He has developed models for aligning standards and assessments and his models have been used in more than 10 states. (, 608.263.4200)
    • Review the work from Surveys of Enacted Curriculum (SEC) as another alignment methodology. A methodology was developed by Andrew Porter, Vanderbilt University and John Smithson from Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER). (Andrew Porter or John Smithson at WCER,, 608.263.4200)
    • Review the work of Achieve, Inc. This organization developed an alignment model in which a panel of content experts judge the degree of alignment between assessment items and standards using five criteria (Jean Slattery, Director of Benchmarking Initiative,, 202.419.1540):
  • Content centrality
  • Performance centrality
  • Challenge
  • Balance   
  • Range.
  • Align K-12 and postsecondary standards to international standards in gap areas. This may result in developing new standards, amending existing standards or augmenting existing standards at the local level.


  • Develop a communications strategy in collaboration with the business sector, to inform parents, students, school staff and/or local school boards of the need to focus on international benchmarking.


  1. Tony Wagner, “Rigor Redefined,” Educational Leadership, 1-3 (Harvard Graduate School of Education), October 2008,

  2. Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), The Definition and Selection of Competencies Project (Executive Summary), 5 (Paris: OECD, 2003),


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