Network Literacy: Learning the New Language of Educational Change

 This week, IEN shares a post from Dr. Alan J. Daly, Professor in the Department of Education Studies at University of California, San Diego. Daly’s post explores scholarship on networks and the possibility of using networks to enact educational change. Daly’s post builds on ideas expressed in “Leading educational change in socially networked systems,” his chapter in the book Future Directions of Educational Change. This post is part of a series of posts from the book, including Jon Saphier’s post on Building a Strong Adult Professional Culture in Schools, Allison Skerrett’s post on Promoting Justice for Transnational Students, and an earlier discussion with the book’s editors Helen Janc Malone and Santiago Rincón-Gallardo.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly                                    

                                                                            Martin Luther King

 

In 1963 while sitting inside of a Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King penned a powerful letter that at its core reminds us we are part of an interdependent and interconnected system. The idea that we all exist in an inescapable network of mutuality animates my recent contribution to the book, Future Directions for Educational Change (2018) suggesting the need to become more literate in the language of networks.

There is no shortage of ideas about how to bring about improvement in education. Many change agents draw on a variety of formal structures, processes, and accountability levers to improve performance.  However, while these more technical approaches at improving outcomes are important and have been well documented, what has been generally missing in the change equation, or at least neglected, are relational linkages between individuals through which change moves.

As we know, learning and leading is increasingly interactive, social, and at its best creates change in the learners, leaders, and the systems in which they operate.  We live in a social world and as such are deeply affected by others, sometimes in ways in which we are unaware.  In fact, a growing body of research suggests that even our happiness, health, weight, and wealth are influenced by the social networks in which we reside. On an educational side, networks are also related to student achievement outcomes and teacher access to knowledge. The ability to work well with others, tap into networks, and draw on collective intelligence is of critical importance for a variety of outcomes as we move more into a knowledge-network economy.

A knowledge-network society will be driven by collaboration, emotional intelligence, and the ability to effectively and efficiently connect to a variety of content and support networks. We live in an increasingly socially connected world in which people find and share information through and with others on a large variety of topics.  Likely at some point during your day you have connected to a social network to share or find information—maybe you sought advice from colleagues, checked in on friends on Facebook or tweeted out something of interest. In a real sense we live in a networked society and success in this space will require a host of new skills and proficiency in network literacy, which are rarely explicitly considered or taught.

Efforts at improving public education systems in support of better achievement for all students are commonplace across the globe with most countries experiencing policies targeted at improving their nation’s schools.  Many of these change efforts are enacted through a wide range of formal structures and processes with the direct intention of building the individual capacity or “human capital” of teachers to improve performance.  However, while these more formal, technical, and often top down approaches at improving education are important, and have been well documented, what has been less thoroughly explored in the change equation are the relational ties between people that may support or constrain the flow of expertise, knowledge, and practices related to improvement efforts.  The idea underlying this more social approach to change is grounded in the idea of networks.

Networks exist in almost all aspects of life from subways, to communication systems, to biological and brain-based networks.  As detailed in Social Network Theory And Educational Change, network science provides perspective and tools to enable us to understand and describe how different elements interact creating a larger patterned structure that is often hidden in plain sight. These networks can show up in face-to-face interactions within communities, districts, and schools. For instance, the figures below are from some work we have underway in the US and Europe. In this example I show two schools that experience different academic outcomes.  School 1 was able to diffuse expertise within the school by an intentional focus on developing learning communities (each node is a teacher colored by grade level) and use of coaches (green nodes). In contrast, School 2, which had significantly lower performance, relied almost completely on one coach (green node) for expertise rather than accessing other educators. In addition, as is evidenced by nodes on the upper left side of School 2’s network, a number of teachers were disconnected from others.  These sociograms allow us to have deeper insights into the social infrastructure.

School 1                                                                      School 2

 

These networks also exist in virtual space. Another example comes from the project #COMMONCORE in which we examined close to 200,000 people and nearly a million tweets related to the Common Core State Standards in the US(see figure below).  This work enabled us to identify groups and influential individuals in the larger conversation around the common core.

 

COMMON CORE NETWORK

#COMMONCORE Network

Social networks whether they be on-ground or on-line provide insights into how the social processes involved in change are stretched across individuals and levels within a system.  This perspective entails a shift from a primary focus on the individual and the attributes of that individual to understanding the more dynamic supports and constraints of the larger social network in which an individual operates.

 

Network scholarship in education focuses on how the constellation of relationships in networks and between organizations facilitate and constrain the flow of “relational resources” (attitudes, beliefs, information etc.) as well as provides insight into how individuals and groups gain access to, are influenced by, and leverage these resources.  The network perspective does not supplant the importance of individual attributes, but rather offers a complementary optic and set of methods for better understanding the dynamic influence of social processes involved in change.  Therefore, rather than trying solely to understand the process of change based on the attributes of an individual (gender, years of experience, training, education, beliefs, etc.), a network approach foregrounds the influence and outcome of an individual or organization’s ‘position’ vis–à-vis social ties with others, as well as the overall social structure of a network.  In many cases, results suggest that the underlying social structure determines the type, access, and flow of resources to actors in the network leading some to suggest that the old adage “It is not what you know, but who you know”, is more accurately, “Who you know defines what you know”.

Network scholarship has been taking off across the globe.  In addition to the work we have completed here in the US, we have collaborated with many international colleagues including: the Netherlands (see school level research by Nienke Moolenaar); Belgium (see work on mentorship in schools by Charlotte Struyve); Norway (see teacher level efforts by Esther Canrinus); Spain (see pre-service scholarship by Jordi Gibson and Twitter by Miguel Del Fresno); the UK (see multiple school comparison efforts by Chris Brown and data use by Chris Downey); Canada (see scholarship by Joelle Rodway); and Taiwan (see leadership and school research by Yi-Hwa Liou).  This is not an exhaustive list, but gives you a flavor of the breadth of the international work.  We are also expanding out to the Southern Hemisphere that comes from my recent Fulbright Global Scholarship in New Zealand and South Africa.

Understanding how to connect to and leverage this larger social infrastructure is critical in accessing information, judging quality, supporting decision-making, and connecting with others for discovery and community.  We also commit to sharing our work out to practitioner audiences to support reflection and consideration of the role of networks.  Last summer, The Trust Gap, was published by the American Federation of Teacher in their American Educator magazine on our work around trust and networks that many systems used to catalyze conversations around networks.  Despite the fact that we live in an inescapable network of mutuality we do not systematically and explicitly teach social network literacy skills. Learning this important language is often left to chance or assumed to be self-evident. However, given the ubiquity and importance of networks in our personal and professional lives we must become more intentional and mindful about increasing our network literacy particularly in its relationship to educational change.

 

— Alan Daly

 

 

Building a Strong Adult Professional Culture in Schools: Adult Culture and Effective Schools

This week’s post comes from Jon Saphier, President of Research for Better Teaching.  Like last week’s post from Allison Skerritt, this piece grows out of Jon’s chapter “Strong Adult Professional Culture: The Indispensable Ingredient for Sustainable School Improvement” from  from the book Future Directions of Educational Change.

“Four years of public school teaching…and ten years as a principal… convinces me that the nature of the relationships among adults who inhabit a school has more to do with a school’s quality and character, with the professionalism of its teachers than any other factor.”

Roland Barth, 1985

Building on Roland Barth’s comment 30 years ago, many have argued that. adult culture is the main shaper of the school’s capacity as an organization to learn and improve its results for students.

Literature on adult culture in schools considers many dimensions of “the way we do things around here,” including stories and story-tellers, heroes and villains of the past, traditions and celebrations that people look forward to (or dread,) and the degree to which there is celebration, community, and opportunities for human contact with one another.  But in my work, some elements have been more important than others. Appreciation and recognition for example, are certainly important in any organization’s “culture;” but are not as central as the regular behavioral norm of “examining student work together non-defensively and deciding how to re-teach what some students didn’t get the first time we taught it.

Educational studies of adult culture started rolling out more frequently in the 90s.  So for at least 25 years we had major authors advocating for the importance of Adult Professional Culture, as well as produced for educators by practitioners. The argument is straight-forward: Strong Adult Professional Culture (APC) leads to more teaching expertise in more classrooms for more children more of the time, because it creates the kind of deep collaboration and use of data that supports constant learning about teaching practice. From this perspective, high-expertise teaching leads to better learning for students.

More recent research studies are also looking at the on the connection between strong cultures and student achievement. These studies make the case that the range and sophistication of teaching expertise is far larger and more complex than the voting public and policy-makers realized. This complexity explains why deeply collaborative cultures are necessary for the kind of problem-solving in which true professionals engage.  They can work together to analyze and address learning issues rather than apply some “best practice.”

Our approach at Research for Better Teaching suggests that there will be no sustainable improvement in student results and no reduction of the achievement gap until leaders and teachers succeed in establishing a series of norms of behavior between adults:

   LEARNING OGRANIZATION

  1. Frequent teaching in the presence of other adults (Public Teaching)
  2. Safety to take risks, be vulnerable in front of colleagues
  3. Constant learning about High-Expertise Teaching

TEAMS & DATA

  1. Deep collaboration and deliberate design for interdependent work and joint responsibility for student results
  2. Non-defensive self-examination of teaching practice in relation to student results
  3. Constant use of data to re-focus teaching

PASSION AND PRESS

  1. Urgency and press to reach all students and do better for our disadvantaged students
  2. Commitment to implement “Smart is something you can get” in classroom practice, class structures, and school policies and procedures

HUMANE CARING ENVIRONMENT

  1. Human environment of caring, appreciation and recognition, getting to know one another, traditions we look forward to

   CRITICAL FEEDBACK

  1. Demanding and high standards for development towards high expertise teaching for all teachers
  2. Honest, open communication and ability to have difficult conversations
  3. Environment of Reflection with Habits of Mindful Inquiry

 

Many other elements of school practice count, and count heavily (good curriculum; community support; resources; school structures like induction and teacher leadership and common planning time; and others.) But no matter how well these important areas are structured, they will not accomplish on their own what we need for students unless we develop these kinds of Strong Adult Professional Cultures. Only leaders can make this so. And it has to start from the top.

Jon Saphier

Promoting Justice for Transnational Students

This week, IEN shares a post from Dr. Allison Skerrett, Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at The University of Texas at Austin.  This week’s post builds on work discussed in her chapter “Curricular and Pedagogical Perspectives on Transnational Students Within Socially Just Approaches to Literacy Education” from the book Future Directions of Educational Change.

Monica was a 17-year old young woman when I first met her in 2013 on the internationally diverse Caribbean island of Dutch Sint Maarten where she was born. Monica’s father lived and worked across Sint Maarten and the US to maximize the family’s economic opportunities. At age nine, Monica moved to Florida to live with her father when he secured long-term employment there. She attended schools in Florida until the middle of 11th grade at which point Monica’s father took a new job in Sint Maarten and she was abruptly re-instated in Sint Maarten schools. Arriving in the middle of the school year, Monica’s family had little school choice; thus Monica was enrolled in a vocational school in which she experienced a lack of academic challenge. Increasingly frustrated and bored in an educational system that failed to acknowledge her previous schooling experiences, Monica eventually dropped out of school. It was at age 20 that Monica decided to grasp back her educational future by sitting and passing the US GED exam. She then moved to Holland to attend university.

A recent UN policy brief (2016) reported that as of 2013 28.2 million migrants worldwide are between the ages of 15-24. Similarly UNICEF (2017) stated that as of 2015 31 million children worldwide are migrants. The term migrant students often raises images of students who are highly mobile due to their families following work opportunities. However the term transnational students is frequently used in educational scholarship to signal the deep familial, cultural, political, and other connections these students and their families build across their original and new homelands.

Ironically the school-age population of transnational students is booming in a time when some world nations are increasingly uncertain about, or even explicitly hostile to, flows of diverse peoples into and across their borders. This paradox emphasizes that the education of transnational students is a matter of justice. As I explained in my chapter in Future Directions of Educational Change, by justice I mean provision of equitable opportunities for all students to experience their full potential in academic and social life. In my earlier book, Teaching transnational youth and a related overview in Education Week, I detailed a transnationally-inclusive approach to literacy education that promotes the academic development of transnational and all other students.

In this piece, I argue it is critical for all educational stakeholders to protect and advance gains transnational students accrue from their teachers’ implementation of transnationally-inclusive approaches to literacy education. Below I lay out some specific and powerful action steps through which teachers, educational leaders, and policymakers can do so.

  • Learn about transnational students from professional articles and from surveying your own student populations.
  • Reach out to families to let them know you are aware of their transnational lifestyles and wish to support their children academically.
  • Ask families and students whether they can assist you with connecting to schools and educators in other countries they also call home. These transnational professional relationships will allow exchange of knowledge about students and help you better support students’ academic progress.
  • Hold conversations with other teacher colleagues, school leaders, and local and state policymakers to raise awareness of transnational students and their educational circumstances. In these conversations, share the transnationally-inclusive curriculum and instructional practices you have been using and student learning outcomes. Discuss broader-scale curriculum and other policy changes that would support rather than ostracize transnational students and families.
  • Build global educational networks for sharing about educational policies, curriculum, and instructional practices in different countries. This can be a grass-roots movement started by teachers in any school, region, or nation. A powerful example lies in the field of nursing where, through allnurses.com, nurses across the globe engage with questions, knowledge, and practices related to their shared profession.

It is possible and urgent to secure greater justice for the millions of transnational students like Monica who populate schools today.

Around the World Responses to The World Bank’s Report Missed Opportunities : The High Cost of Not Educating Girls

7/18/18

HighCostOfNotEducatingGirls.pdf

Photo Credit: The World Bank

Last week, the World Bank released a report, the High Cost of Not Educating Girls, which looks at the economic consequences of girls in low-income countries not completing primary and secondary school. The press release states, “Limited educational opportunities for girls and barriers to completing 12 years of education cost countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings.”  The report goes on to explain:

Too many girls drop out of school prematurely, especially in low income countries. Low educational attainment for girls has negative consequences not only for them, but also for their children and household, as well as for their community and society. This study documents the potential impacts of educational attainment for girls and women in six domains: (1) earnings and standards of living; (2) child marriage and early childbearing; (3) fertility and population growth; (4) health, nutrition, and well-being; (5) agency and decision-making; and (6) social capital and institutions. The results are sobering: the potential economic and social costs of not educating girls are large

The report also looks at positive effects of girls’ education, which include “a wide range of social and economic benefits for the girls themselves, their children and their communities. These include near-elimination of child marriage, lowering fertility rates by a third in countries with high population growth, and reducing child mortality and malnutrition.”

A scan of headlines around the world shows the figures on the economic loss have captured the attention of many.  In contrast to previous scans of headlines following the release of results of international tests like PISA, PIRLS and TIMMS, however, this scan turned up few mentions in the press in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia or other OECD countries other than Japan.

Failure to educate girls could cost world $30 trillion a year: report
Japan Times

 

Not educating girls costs global economy $15-30 trillion
Times of India

 

World Bank blames global economic loss on undereducated girls
Crimerussia

 

Not educating girls costs world trillions in lost earnings
The Arab Weekly

 

Global Cost of Not Educating Girls Is $15-30 Trillion: World Bank
The Wire

 

Not educating girls costs countries trillions of dollars― World Bank
The Exchange (East Africa’s Investment Gateway)

Report: Failure to educate girls could cost world US$30t a year
MalayMail

 

Africa: Just 40 percent of poor girls complete primary education – WB
Journal du Cameroun

 

Not educating girls globally costs USD 15-30 trillion, says World Bank
Financial Express

 

Lack of education for girls costs global economy USD 15-30 tn: World Bank
Devdiscourse – Discourse on Development

 

Lack of girls’ education costs countries trillions of dollars
Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)

 

Not educating girls costs countries trillions of dollars – World Bank report
My Joy Online (Ghana)

 

Failure to educate girls could cost world $30 trillion: report
Reuters

 

 

Lead the Change with Kim Fong Poon-McBrayer

Dr. Kim Fong Poon-McBrayer has been a teacher and teacher educator in the United States, Singapore, Brunei, and currently is an Associate Professor at the Education University of Hong Kong, which was ranked 9 by the 2018 QS World University Rankings by Subject in the world and 2nd in Asia. She is the former Deputy President of Hong Kong Institute of Technology and Senior Registrar of Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic & Vocational Qualifications. She has served in myriad leadership capacities in international professional organizations such as Council for Exceptional Children and been a keynote/plenary speaker in many conferences. Dr. Fong Poon-McBrayer was among the 2,000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century and Marquis’ Who’s Who in American Education 2003, 2009 and 2010. She has widely published in the areas of inclusive education and leadership for change. One of her papers won the First Paper of the World Conference on Educational Sciences in 2013.

In this interview, part of the Lead the Change Series of the American Educational Research Association Educational Change Special Interest Group, Dr. Poon-McBrayer talks about many topics, including her role in developing special education programs in China. As she puts it:

The single most important factor to facilitate systemic changes is the effective principal who cares about students, is keen to improve student outcomes, can build mutual trust with teachers and staff, communicates vision clearly, understands teachers’ difficulties and affective needs, and, most importantly, ‘models the way’ (as most principal participants emphasized) to demonstrate his/her commitment to be in the same boat with teachers. These school leaders have impressively contributed to the overall positive attitudes toward recognizing:

(a) students’ right to an education with appropriate support in public schools,
(b) parental right to participate in decision making, and
(c) the significance of professional development in improving teacher competencies in implementing changes.

The single most important factor for effective integrated education at the practice level is to have a team of well-supported—and well-equipped—teachers who share the vision of integrated education.

This Lead the Change interview appears as part of a series that features experts from around the globe, highlights promising research and practice, and offers expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change. Recently Lead the Change has also interviewed Mel Ainscow and Jennifer Groff.

Hierarchy, Markets and Networks, a New Report from Toby Greany and Rob Higham

Toby Greany and Rob Higham, professors at UCL Institute of Education, University College London, recently released a report, Hierarchy, Markets and Networks: Analysing the ‘self-improving school-led system’ agenda in England and the implications for schools, which “analyses how schools in England have interpreted and begun to
respond to the government’s ‘self-improving school-led system’ (SISS) policy
agenda”. The report “focuse[s] on four different English localities, including 47 school case studies and a survey of school leaders.” With this approach, it “focuses on the concept of the self-improving system. In doing so, the research reported addresses all the key agendas at work in the middle tier – different forms and levels of accountability, collaboration and competition, system incentives and constraints, and the parameters of
autonomy. Fundamentally, it asks whether the English education system is self-improving (or indeed improving), and analyses those elements that facilitate and impede this intention.” The authors also recently published a related piece in the Guardian. The report, which was released on July 3rd, is already receiving broader attention in various outlets. For a related post, see IEN’s 2015 interview with Greany.

In the report, Greany and Higham propose that:

While largely undefined in official texts, the SISS agenda has become an overarching narrative for schools policy since 2010, encompassing an ensemble of reforms on academies, the promotion of multi-academy trusts (MATs), the roll back of local authorities (LAs) from school oversight, and the development of new school-to-school support models, such as Teaching School Alliances (TSAs). The government argues that these reforms will ‘dismantle the apparatus of central control and bureaucratic compliance’ (DfE, 2010: 66) by ‘moving control to the frontline’ (DfE, 2016b: 8). While there has been a range of research on specific aspects of these school policy changes, there is as Woods and Simkins (2014) observe a paucity of analysis on how the SISS agenda is influencing change at the local level. This report seeks to address that gap by asking whether or not the models of co-ordination and school support emerging locally since 2010 represent a genuine basis for an equitable and inclusive ‘school-led’ system. We explore the factors that support and hinder such developments and the implications of this for schools and school leadership.

The report also concludes that:

rather than ‘moving control to the frontline’, the SISS agenda has intensified hierarchical governance and the state’s powers of intervention, further constraining the professionalism of school staff and steering the system through a model we term ‘coercive autonomy’. Our
findings are unambiguous in illustrating the importance of Ofsted and the wider accountability framework in influencing the behaviour of schools, suggesting that hierarchical governance is more influential than market or network co-ordination in England.

PISA Treatment? Exploring the Side Effects of Education Reform

by Alma Harris, Yong Zhao, and Michelle Jones

In this the latest post in the Leading Futures Series, edited by Alma Harris and Michelle Jones, and Yong Zhao, Foundation Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of Kansas, discuss some of the key ideas in Zhao’s latest book, What Works May Hurt – Side Effects in Education. For a related discussion, see Zhao, Harris, and Jones’ latest piece in TES.

The PISA bandwagon continues. This juggernaut of educational assessment has dominated the global debate about educational change for almost two decades now. The first PISA results were published in December 2001 and since then PISA has strengthened its grip on policymaking.

While PISA has proffered the opportunity to compare the performance of different countries, based on its data, it has also contributed to an international credence in borrowing from “the best.” While the world-renowned Finish educator, Pasi Sahlberg, advises not to try to copy Finland this advice is often ignored in the competition for better system and school outcomes. He says ‘while it is true that we can certainly learn from foreign systems and use them as backdrops for better understanding of our own, we cannot simply replicate them’.

The idolisation of certain education systems over others remains a strong trend that influences the global discourse about education reform. We hear a lot about Singapore, Finland, Ontario, and Shanghai but far less about other jurisdictions, like the Netherlands, that also have performed relatively well on a range of external indicators, including PISA. Yet, as Sahlberg and Hargreaves argue PISA data has also shed important light on issues of equity.”

Without the data that PISA has generated over the years,” they point out, “calls for enhanced equity would not be part of the education policy conversation in the countries that have suffered from inequitable education systems, including the U.S.”

The verdict on PISA remains mixed and, in some corners, still highly contested. As Simon Breakspeare notes: ‘It is time to put PISA in its place. The problem lies in how PISA has come to play such a defining role in determining educational performance and progress’. In the end education systems, like schools, focus on what gets measured and other important issues, like health, wellbeing, socio-emotional development etc. are in danger of being marginalised or left out altogether.

In his new book, the orchestrator of PISA, Andrea Schleicher maps the development and the successes of PISA. ‘World Class: Building a 21st Century School System‘ rehearses many of the well-known arguments for this international assessment and preferred reform strategies. In this book, Schleicher argues that ‘one of the most important insights from PISA’ is that education systems ‘could be changed and made to perform’. He also proposes that culture is not necessarily an important consideration when addressing reform at scale. He cites the success of many countries like Mexico, Germany, Columbia, and Peru that have improved their performance in PISA despite their context and culture.

There are two important observations to be made here. Firstly, the term “world-class” is relatively meaningless because it is not possible to say that a practice is ‘good’, ‘best’ or ‘effective’ in all settings, on all occasions and with all students. It largely depends on the contextual conditions and the cultural setting in which this practice is effective in the first place. Often things work well because of the contextual conditions that enable them to work, not because they are universally effective.

Secondly by citing countries like Mexico, Columbia and Peru, there is the impression that other countries, also facing an uphill struggle to improve educational outcomes, can easily follow this well-trodden pathway to PISA glory. Far less is said in Schleicher’s book, however, about countries that have failed to make any real progress on PISA, like Indonesia or Malaysia, despite borrowing some of the strategies of the more successful performers. Countries who have failed to lift their PISA performance having borrowed from the best tend not to make the OECD headlines.

Inevitably, there are a complex set of interrelated factors plus substantial differences across educational systems, political systems, societies, and cultures that interact, both positively and negatively, with any reform process. The ‘side-effects’ of certain policy decisions and approaches are also often factored out or ignored.

In his latest book Yong Zhao argues that what works can hurt. Like medical products, education policies and practices that are effective in achieving some outcomes can have adverse side effects on other, perhaps, more important outcomes. For example, the education systems that are effective in producing high PISA scores can cause damage to students’ confidence and other aspects of well-being. Likewise, policies and practices that benefit some students can hurt others. For example, teachers with high academic performances in secondary schools have been found to benefit high performing students but hurt low performing students, contradicting the policy recommendation derived from PISA data that school systems should recruit high performing graduates into teaching.

Currently, PISA promotes competition between countries and prompts a deficit view i.e. why is our system performing less well than others in PISA? instead of ‘in what way is our education system good and how can we build upon that? As an alternative, position therefore we propose that countries should identify their own strengths and build on them, drawing on a policy learning approach rather than a policy borrowing approach. In other words, while we can learn from other countries and helpfully look at their success and failures, the mature policy response is to build upon and extend what already works well in context and to focus far more from learning within the system, rather than outside it.

Good things are happening in all education systems, somewhere. The three-year cycle of PISA has become a distractor as policy attention inevitably turns competing in a race that most countries cannot win. Hopefully, in time, PISA will encourage policy makers to focus far more on learning about their own context, rather than wishing to be another country altogether.