OVAE Connection - Issue 160 - July 25, 2013

OVAE Connection

                                                                           July 25, 2013

OVAE Welcomes Michelle Meiser


Michelle Meier recently joined the accountability team in OVAE’s Division of Adult Education and Literacy (DAEL). She comes to us from the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), where she worked on both formula and discretionary grant programs. In 2009, she undertook a 5-month detail with the Policy and Program Studies Service within the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, helping to draft the documents that accompanied the incoming administration’s 2010 Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization proposal. Her first move into adult education was with OESE’s Office of Migrant Education, where she helped design the performance reporting process for a discretionary grant program that helps migrant workers obtain a GED.

Meier is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, and had a variety of other career experiences before joining ED in 2008. An attorney, Meier served from 1984 to 1997 as counsel for government affairs for Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. In that position, she helped push consumer protection legislation through Congress. Later, she worked as a teacher and staff development specialist with Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools. Combining her interest in education and policy, Meier received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati, her master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University, and her Juris Doctor from American University Washington College of Law.

As a person truly committed to the critical role of adult education, Meier is excited to join OVAE’s adult education accountability team, where she will provide technical assistance to states as they enter their data into the National Reporting System (NRS) and assist in analyzing the data once it is submitted.

Interpreting PIRLS Results

Florida Fourth Graders Surpass Almost All Nations in Reading

Two internationally comparative tests, Progress in International Reading Literacy (PIRLS) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), produce results of significant educational interest for reading, mathematics, and science. This second of four articles about them in OVAE Connection focuses on the reporting of the scores and their meanings. According to NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley, neither of these assessments provides individual student scores, but rather “national and group estimates of performance.” Both assessments, using a common scale for each administration of the assessment, report results on a scale from 0 to 1,000. This scale has a mean of 500 and a standard deviation of 100. Differences in scores that are not statistically significant are referred to as “not measurably different” or “not statistically significant.” Putting all results on a common scale permits countries and education systems to compare their scores over time to the standardized scale average, as well as to other countries’ scores.

In addition to providing numerical scale results for each participating country and group, the results for both PIRLS and TIMSS are reported on four benchmarks each for reading, mathematics, and science—an advanced benchmark of 625, a high benchmark of 550, an intermediate benchmark of 475, and a low benchmark of 400. “Because assessment items are mapped to each benchmark level, knowing the percentage of students who have reached a benchmark tells you the percentage of students who successfully demonstrated the kinds of skills and knowledge required for answering items at each benchmark level.”

U.S. fourth-graders, with an average score of 556, scored higher than the PIRLS scale average, which is set at 500. The students of five education systems, Hong Kong-China, the state average for Florida (the only state with its own reading results), Russian Federation, Finland, and Singapore, had higher average scores than did U.S. students as a whole, while 40 systems had lower average scores, and average scores were not measurably different from those of the U.S for seven systems. It is worth noting that Florida students, with an average score of 569, outscored students from every other participating education system with the exceptions of Hong Kong-China, the Russian Federation, Finland, and Singapore, none of which had measurably different scores from Florida students.

U.S. fourth-grade students also reached each of the four international benchmarks at higher rates than the international median of participating systems. Seventeen percent of U.S. students achieved the advanced benchmark. U.S. students were outscored only by students from Singapore and Florida on this count. Between 2006 and 2011, the U.S. average reading score for fourth graders rose 16 points, one of only 13 systems to demonstrate increases in average reading scores over this time span.

Future issues of OVAE Connection will discuss the TIMSS results for fourth- and eighth-graders in mathematics and science.

Webinar on Building a System of High-Quality Career Pathways

The National Center for Innovation and Career and Technical Education (NCICTE) will continue its four-part webinar series Building a System of High-Quality Career Pathways; High School Transformation and District Supports.

  • On July 26, the topic will be developing a district-wide system of pathways.
  • On July 31, leadership development and communications strategies will be discussed.

Both pre-recorded modules, in addition to the first two modules from July 10 and 24, will be under “Training Center” at http://ctecenter.ed.gov/.


In the July 18 issue of OVAE Connection, the story about the 2013 WorldSkills competition results misidentified the location of Ferris State University. The university is located in Big Rapids, Michigan. .