23 SES 03 B, Policies and Practices of Assessment and Governance in Education
This paper examines the development, administration and enactment of PISA for Schools – a new testing instrument of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – in order to demonstrate the relevance of networks to heterarchical processes of educational policymaking and governance. In contrast to the triennial Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) undertaken by schooling systems, in which the nation-state is the usual unit of analysis, PISA for Schools instead assesses school performance in reading, mathematics and science against the national (and subnational) schooling systems measured by the main PISA test. 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 (for US$11,500) 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.
In light of what has been described as the changing ‘topology of policy’ (Ball and Junemann 2012, 78), and the transition more broadly from government to governance (Rhodes 1997, 2007), my analyses address the diverse array of actors, organizations and spaces – inside and outside of government – in which PISA for Schools has been, and continues to be, constituted and enacted. In particular, this reflects the quasi-privatization of education (Au & Ferrare, 2015; Ball, 2012; Hursh, 2016; Mahony, Hextall, & Menter, 2004; Verger, Lubienski, & Steiner-Khamsi, 2016) and the increasing provision of private ‘solutions’ to putatively public ‘problems’. While the development of PISA for Schools is itself significant for bringing new policy actors, like the OECD, into contact with more local schooling spaces and educators, it is the ‘flows’ (Appadurai, 1996) made possible by such connections that are of especial interest here, insofar as they enable new opportunities to influence how education is locally thought and practiced. I draw upon contemporary theorizing around policy networks (Ball, 2012; Ball & Junemann, 2012), as well as emerging topological spatialities and rationalities associated with processes of globalization (Allen, 2011; Amin, 2002; Lury, Parisi, & Terranova, 2012), to suggest how PISA for Schools helps to constitute ‘virtual’, and highly relational, policy spaces, which are themselves productive of new heterarchical modes of educational governance and policymaking.
By exploring the actors and agents of the PISA for Schools policy network, I am purposefully not seeking the rather en vogue aim of visually ‘mapping’ relations between organizations but, rather, to determine how these networks help to constitute new policy spaces that cut across traditional public/private, and for-profit/not-for-profit, boundaries. Given the array of actors and organizations associated with PISA for Schools, I am also concerned here with understanding the diverse, and at times competing, motives of the OECD and its ‘partner organizations’, as well as the local schools and districts that voluntarily seek to compare themselves with international schooling systems. Furthermore, and informed by the global-local connectivity that such comparative assessments enable, the research focuses on how PISA for Schools makes possible new relations, spatialities and modes of governance between the OECD and US schools and districts, particularly with respect to how such relations can influence local understandings of schooling.
Allen, J. (2011). Topological twists: Power's shifting geographies. Dialogues in Human Geography, 1(3), 283-298. doi:10.1177/2043820611421546 Allen, J., & Cochrane, A. (2010). Assemblages of state power: Topological shifts in the organisation of government and politics. Antipode, 42(5), 1071-1089. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8330.2010.00794.x Amin, A. (2002). Spatialities of globalisation. Environment and Planning A, 34(3), 385-399. doi:10.1068/a3439 Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalisation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Au, W., & Ferrare, J. J. (Eds.). (2015). Mapping corporate education reform: Power and policy networks in the neoliberal state. New York: Routledge. 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. Hursh, D. (2016). The end of public schools: The corporate reform agenda to privatise public education. New York: Routledge. Lingard, B., & Rawolle, S. (2011). New scalar politics: Implications for education policy. Comparative Education, 47(4), 489-502. doi:10.1080/03050068.2011.555941 Lury, C., Parisi, L., & Terranova, T. (2012). Introduction: The becoming topological of culture. Theory, Culture & Society, 29(4-5), 3-35. doi:10.1177/0263276412454552 Mahony, P., Hextall, I., & Menter, I. (2004). Building dams in Jordan, assessing teachers in England: A case study in edu-business. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 2(2), 277-296. doi:10.1080/14767720410001733674 Nye Jr, J. S. (2004). Soft power: The means to success in world politics. New York: PublicAffairs. Verger, A., Lubienski, C., & Steiner-Khamsi, G. (Eds.). (2016). World yearbook of education 2016: The global education industry. Oxon: Routledge.
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