23 SES 03 B, Policies and Practices of Assessment and Governance in Education
This paper examines a professional learning community – the Global Learning Network (GLN) – that has developed around a new school-level instrument for international benchmarking: the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) PISA-based Test for Schools (‘PISA for Schools’). Unlike the more renowned Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) undertaken by national (and some subnational) schooling systems, PISA for Schools measures the school-level performance of 15-year old students in reading, mathematics and science. This positions schools within a globally commensurate space of measurement and comparison (Lingard & Rawolle, 2011), encouraging local educators to learn from the policies and practices advocated by ‘high performing’ schooling systems (e.g. Shanghai-China, Finland) and, importantly, the OECD itself. PISA for Schools is also unique insofar as schools or districts voluntarily purchase the testing and policy services of the OECD by way of a private accredited provider, usually an edu-business, rather than school participation being organized (or even mandated) by the education bureaucracies of nation-states.
Within broader moves towards a global governance of education (Meyer & Benavot, 2013), as well as the growing significance of comparison in contemporary modes of governance (Nóvoa & Yariv-Mashal, 2003), this distinctive function of PISA for Schools opens up new local schooling spaces to global policy actors like the OECD while, at the same time, minimizing the influence of the State. Indeed, such discourses, processes and relations have been recognized to influence how schooling is both understood and practiced across national and, increasingly, subnational schooling spaces, enabling otherwise distant actors (such as the OECD) to ‘reach into’ (Allen & Cochrane, 2010) decidedly more local policy spaces (see Lewis, 2016; Lewis & Hardy, 2016; Lewis, Sellar, & Lingard, 2016). In this we can arguably see the enhanced scale, scope and explanatory power of the Organization’s education policy work (Sellar & Lingard, 2014). Informed by the global-local connectivity that such flows enable, my research seeks to show how GLN, through PISA for Schools, makes possible new relations, spatialities and modes of governance between the OECD, its partner organizations and participating US schools and districts, particularly with respect to how such relations can influence, and at time constrain, local understandings and practices of schooling.
In order to accommodate such changing empirical realities, and informed by the policy sociology ‘toolbox’ approach of Ball (1993), I draw upon an eclectic variety of theoretical resources to help understand these new spaces and relations of global educational governance. These include diverse thinking around networked (or ‘heterarchical’) modes of governance (Ball, 2012; Ball & Junemann, 2012), emerging topological spatialities and rationalities associated with processes of globalization (Allen, 2011; Amin, 2002; Lury, Parisi, & Terranova, 2012), and developments associated with governing by ‘hard’ numbers (Grek, 2009; Lingard, 2013; Ozga, 2009) and ‘soft’ examples (Simons, 2015). In this instance, network governance involves the inclusion of horizontal relationships and new non-governmental actors into the policy work of the State, while heterarchy refers to the combination of these new horizontal and older vertical relationships, and modes of organization, through which the State now functions. On the other hand, topological thinking helps us to understand spaces that are determined less by physical location (e.g. the nation-state; the state) and more by the myriad relations, both material and discursive, that ‘flow’ between individuals and organizations in the development and enactment of education policy.
Allen, J. (2011). Topological twists: Power's shifting geographies. Dialogues in Human Geography, 1(3), 283-298. Allen, J., & Cochrane, A. (2010). Assemblages of state power: Topological shifts in the organisation of government and politics. Antipode, 42(5), 1071-1089. Amin, A. (2002). Spatialities of globalisation. Environment and Planning A, 34(3), 385-399. Ball, S. (1993). What is policy? Texts, trajectories and toolboxes. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 13(2), 10-17. Ball, S. (2012). Global education inc.: New policy networks and the neo-liberal imaginary. New York: Routledge. Ball, S., & Junemann, C. (2012). Networks, new governance and education. Bristol: Policy Press. Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality: The will to knowledge. Camberwell: Penguin Books. Grek, S. (2009). Governing by numbers: The PISA ‘effect’ in Europe. Journal of Education Policy, 24(1), 23-37. Kemmis, S., Wilkinson, J., Edwards-Groves, C., Hardy, I., Grootenboer, P., & Bristol, L. (2014). Changing practices, changing education. Singapore: Springer. Lewis, S. (2016). Governing schooling through ‘what works’: The OECD’s PISA for Schools. Journal of Education Policy, 1-22. Lewis, S., & Hardy, I. (2016). Tracking the topological: The effects of standardised data upon teachers’ practice. British Journal of Educational Studies, 1-20. Lewis, S., Sellar, S., & Lingard, B. (2016). 'PISA for Schools': Topological rationality and new spaces of the OECD's global educational governance. Comparative Education Review, 60(1), 27-57. Lingard, B. (2013). The impact of research on education policy in an era of evidence-based policy. Critical Studies in Education, 54(2), 113-131. Lingard, B., & Rawolle, S. (2011). New scalar politics: Implications for education policy. Comparative Education, 47(4), 489-502. Lury, C., Parisi, L., & Terranova, T. (2012). Introduction: The becoming topological of culture. Theory, Culture & Society, 29(4-5), 3-35. Meyer, H.-D., & Benavot, A. (Eds.). (2013). PISA, power and policy: The emergence of global educational governance. Oxford: Symposium Books. Nóvoa, A., & Yariv-Mashal, T. (2003). Comparative research in education: A mode of governance or a historical journey? Comparative Education, 39(4), 423-438. Ozga, J. (2009). Governing education through data in England: From regulation to self-evaluation. Journal of Education Policy, 24(2), 149-162. Sellar, S., & Lingard, B. (2014). The OECD and the expansion of PISA: New global modes of governance in education. British Educational Research Journal, 40(6), 917-936. Simons, M. (2015). Governing education without reform: The power of the example. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 36(5), 712-731.
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