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Information for Parents

What is PISA?

PISA is an important international study that has been conducted every 3 years since 2000. PISA 2015 measures student learning in reading, mathematics, science, collaborative problem solving and financial literacy. The focus in PISA is on assessing how well students can apply their knowledge and skills to problems within a real-life context. It provides information on how students' performance in the United States compares with that of students in the more than 70 other countries and educational jurisdictions participating in 2015.

The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics sponsors U.S. participation in PISA. Reports of the findings from PISA 2015 will not identify participating districts, schools, students, or staff. Individual responses will be aggregated with those from other participants to produce summary statistics and reports.

Does a student's performance on PISA impact his or her grades?

A student's performance on PISA will not impact his or her academic grades. PISA is not designed to produce individual test scores and a student's individual performance is not shared with the school, teachers, or district.

Who will see my teenager's data?

By law, the data provided by schools, staff, and students may be used only for statistical purposes and may not be disclosed, or used, in identifiable form for any other purpose except as required by law (20 U.S.C. § 9573). Reports of the findings from PISA 2015 will not identify participating districts, schools, students, or staff. Student responses are combined with other student responses and are only used for statistical purposes.

How are students selected to participate?

In PISA, each country is represented by a small sample of schools and students scientifically selected to reflect its population and educational contexts and provide valid estimates of student achievement. The sampling method ensures that the U.S. participants will be representative of the whole United States, not just particular types of schools or groups of students. Schools in the U.S. sample are sampled from a list of all schools in the United States enrolling 15-year-olds. Within each school, students are randomly sampled from a list of all 15-year-olds enrolled in the school. Other countries are required to use the same approach so that no single country will have an advantage over another in terms of the schools or students being assessed. In the United States, 240 schools have been scientifically sampled to take part in PISA 2015. In each school, 42 students will be randomly sampled to participate.

What does participating in PISA 2015 involve for schools and students?

Trained PISA staff will visit the school and administer the assessment, which consists of two sessions on the same day that takes a total of 3 hours. In the first session, all sampled students will participate in a 2-hour computer-based assessment with a combination of mathematics, reading, science, and collaborative problem solving questions, as well as a 30-minute questionnaire. In the second session, 10 or 11 of these students will also be asked to take a 1-hour computer-based assessment on financial literacy.

What are the benefits of participation?

The nation as a whole benefits from PISA by gaining a greater understanding of how the knowledge and skills of U.S. students compare with those of students from other countries. Parents can support this effort by encouraging their teenagers to participate in PISA and to take the assessment seriously so that researchers and policymakers can get an accurate picture of the knowledge and skills of U.S. students. Because PISA has a real-life focus and involves students applying what they know and can do, students have said they enjoy the experience. Students that participate in PISA receive a certificate for 4-hours of volunteer service from the U.S. Department of Education.

What if I have additional questions?

If you have questions about PISA in your teenager's school, you may call PISA staff at 1-888-638-2597 or send an email to Examples of PISA questions can be found here. Examples of reports from earlier cycles of PISA can be found here. For other information or questions, see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) here, or you can use the "Contact Us" button at the top of the page.