The Educational Research Centre (ERC) administers the OECD’s Programme for International Assessment (PISA) in nationally representative samples of students aged 15. The study is conducted every three years since 2000, and assesses reading literacy, mathematics and science. The ERC identified an error in the course of a review of PISA 2015 data.
The error referred to by the Deputy involved the ERC using the wrong indicator variable to compare students in DEIS and non-DEIS schools in PISA 2015 national reporting. The PISA 2015 national report and its accompanying e-Appendix were published by the ERC in December 2016.
As a result of this error, the published analyses in the PISA 2015 national report, that compare students in DEIS and non-DEIS schools were incorrect. The ERC has recently published the corrected data. While the improvements are somewhat less than previously reported, nevertheless the revised figures still represent improvements on the equivalent data for 2012.
A second consequence of this error was that the post-primary literacy and numeracy targets in the DEIS Plan and in the Interim Literacy and Numeracy Strategy Review document, which are based on PISA proficiency levels, were incorrect. The figures should have presented a lower baseline of achievement than what was published at the time.
My Department has noted the errors and the corrected data now published by the ERC. The ERC has confirmed to my Department that the error related only to one variable indicator, and that no other analysis carried out by it for my Department is affected. The ERC has also confirmed that it is in the process of a broader internal review of its data management processes to mitigate the recurrence of such an error.
In relation to Literacy and Numeracy, and DEIS, the original targets were published in 2017.
The Deputy will be aware the findings from PISA 2018 were published in early December and show that Irish students in Ireland scored higher than the OECD average in reading, mathematics and science.
Consideration is being given to the development of new targets taking into account the outcome of the 2018 PISA report and the corrected baseline of achievement in 2015 that the ERC has now published in relation to DEIS schools.
Evaluation is a key element of the DEIS Programme and PISA findings are considered part of the ongoing evaluation of DEIS. Aside from PISA, there are a number of mechanisms of evaluation of DEIS schools.
Since DEIS was first introduced, the Educational Research Centre (ERC) and my Department’s Inspectorate have conducted a series of evaluations on aspects of the programme and findings of this work are contained in a series of published reports. Evidence from this research to date demonstrates that the DEIS programme is having a positive effect on tackling educational disadvantage and is succeeding in improving educational outcomes.
The Educational Research Centre has also been involved in implementing and reporting on National Assessments of Mathematics and English Reading (NAMER) on behalf of my Department. Since 2009 NAMER assesses primary pupils in English Reading and Maths at the end of Second and Sixth classes, to coincide with the end of the Junior and Senior cycles at primary level. The ninth NAMER takes place in the spring of 2020 in a nationally representative sample of schools. One of the objectives of this assessment cycle is to evaluate progress towards the revised targets identified after NAMER 2014. NAMER 2020 will incorporate an increased sample of DEIS schools in order to compare the achievements of pupils in non-DEIS and DEIS schools.