Schmidt receives international fellowship to study PISA

May 10, 2013

Schmidt_WilliamWilliam Schmidt is among four researchers worldwide named as Thomas J. Alexander Fellows by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). He is the only scholar from the United States selected for the fellowship, a new program focused on improving education quality and equity.

The fellowship is named in honor of Thomas J. Alexander, an OECD leader who launched the first Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2000. He died in 2012.

Schmidt is a University Distinguished Professor of education and statistics at Michigan State University and co-director of the Education Policy Center at MSU. He has long studied how differences in curriculum, teaching and other factors are related to achievement, from domestic and international perspectives. His latest book, Inequality for All, showed that content coverage in the United States is inequitably distributed across schools and classrooms.

During the fellowship, he will use new data from PISA 2012 to explore the concept of opportunity to learn and how it relates to performance, particularly mathematical literacy. PISA is an international, comparative assessment of student competencies at age 15. Over 70 countries have participated in the study to evaluate their education systems.

“It’s a superb opportunity because PISA is used by policymakers across the world to improve schooling,” said Schmidt, who has examined how opportunity to learn is related to math performance on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), another international test. “This work will give us a chance to empirically gain some insights about whether issues of content coverage also relate to performance on PISA.”

Schmidt has worked with OECD staff at the Paris headquarters and will return a few more times in the year ahead. A report on the 2012 PISA results is expected in December 2013, Schmidt said.

Selected from a pool of 68 applicants, the other fellows are João Galvão Bacchetto of Brazil, Przemyslaw Biecek of Poland and Gabriela Miranda Moriconi of Brazil. Their research projects are expected to conclude by spring 2014.

Visit to learn more about the program and the first fellows.