UW–Madison’s Kaplan presents to OECD on UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in Education

UW–Madison’s David Kaplan, the Patricia Busk Professor of Quantitative Methods in the Department of Educational Psychology, was in Paris in September to give an invited presentation to staff of the Directorate of Education and Skills of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 

David Kaplan

The focus of the presentation was on Kaplan’s work (funded by the Institute for Education Sciences) on assessing the pace at which countries are moving toward or away from the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in Education (Goal 4). Goal 4 states: “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to a relevant and effective learning outcome.”

One indicator of Goal 4 is a measure of the “proportion of children and young people (a) in grades 2/3; (b) at the end of primary; and (c) at the end of lower secondary achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in (i) reading and (ii) mathematics, by sex.”

Although there are many ways to define “minimum proficiency,” the UN and the OECD have been focusing on using data from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) to gauge progress toward this target.  Kaplan and his colleagues are developing novel Bayesian statistical approaches for forecasting the pace at which countries are progressing toward or way from the minimum competency target. These approaches account for uncertainty in the estimates of change over time as well as in the models that are used to produce these estimates.

Preliminary findings suggest that although there is variability across countries in the pace of progress, with some countries losing ground and some countries gaining ground relative to the minimum competency cut-off, most countries’ performance in math and reading have been relatively stable since at least the 2003 cycle of PISA.

Continuing research is examining if there are policy-relevant predictors for the variability in the pace of progress, and importantly, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on country-level reading and math performance, which will be known with the release of PISA 2022 results at the end of 2022.

The co-principal investigator on this project is Professor Nina Jude of the Institut für Bildungswissenshaft, Universität Heidelberg.  Graduate students Kjorte Harra (UW–Madison) and Jonas Stampka (Heidelberg) serve as project assistants.

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