Methods and Policy Uses of International Large-Scale Assessments

Results from international large-scale assessments (ILSAs) garner considerable attention in the media, academia, and among policy makers. The reported findings often raise questions about whether U.S. students are prepared to compete with their counterparts in other countries. But do such comparisons conceal as much as they reveal? What do the results of international assessments really tell us about the strengths and weaknesses of our education system?

Although there is widespread recognition that ILSAs can provide useful information, there is debate about what types of comparisons are the most meaningful and what could be done to assure more sound interpretations. To address these issues, in 2015 the National Academy of Education (NAEd) assembled a Steering Committee to examine the future of ILSAs from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. The committee held two workshops and will be producing a summary report, to be released in 2017.

The first workshop, held on June 17, 2016, focused on the somewhat more technical methodological issues related to the design, analysis, and reporting of ILSAs. The second workshop, held on September 16, 2016, moved into the less technical aspects of reporting, as well as interpretation, and policy uses of ILSAs. The September workshop video cast is also available for viewing.

The committee commissioned several background papers and will be producing a workshop summary report. All of these reports will be posted on the NAEd website at the end of the project in 2017. In addition, this work is also being conducted in collaboration with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.


  • Judith Singer (Chair)
    Harvard University
  • Henry Braun
    Boston College
  • Anna Chmielewski
    University of Toronto
  • Richard Durán
    University of California, Santa Barbara
  • David Kaplan
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Marshall “Mike” Smith
    Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching
  • Judith Torney-Purta
    University of Maryland


Workshop Videos

Welcome and Project Goals

Michael J. Feuer, George Washington University and NAEd President
Peggy G. Carr, National Center for Education Statistics
Judith Singer (Committee Chair), Harvard University

Panel 1: Media Perspectives

Nicholas Lemann, Columbia University
Kevin Carey, New America
Brad Wible, Science Magazine
Audience Discussion

Voice From Another Field

Ellen Nolte, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (via web)
Audience Discussion

Panel 2: Policy Perspectives

Jack Jennings, Center on Education Policy, Retired
Michele McLaughlin, Knowledge Alliance
Marc Tucker, National Center on Education and the Economy
Audience Discussion

Panel 3: Research Perspectives

Sean Reardon, Stanford University
Norman Bradburn, University of Chicago
Hank Levin, Columbia University
Audience Discussion

Workshop Wrap-up

Judith Singer (Committee Chair), Harvard University


Naomi Chudowsky, Sr. Program Officer


The project and research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305U150003 to the National Academy of Education. The opinions expressed are those of the NAEd and authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.

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