Decorah High School is among six high-achieving Iowa high schools participating this spring in an international test of science, mathematics and reading.

It will provide each school and Iowa with a global benchmark for where students stand compared to their peers in over 65 countries and economies worldwide.

Grant funded

Iowa’s participation in the project, along with Minnesota, Illinois and Tennessee, is being funded by the Kern Family Foundation through a grant to the education organization Innovate + Educate.

The voluntary PISA-based (Program for International Student Achievement) test engages 15-year-old students in critical thinking and contextual problem solving, attributes that college and business leaders say are critical.

The test is produced by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and is similar to the PISA test taken by over 500,000 15-year-olds around the globe every three years.

Why Decorah?

Decorah High School was among the Iowa schools selected based on aggregate ACT test scores (some of the highest in the state), size and geography. Each school will administer the test during spring semester 2014, and scores will be publicly reported.

Each school commits to hosting conversations that engage business and community partners in gauging and improving performance in an international context.

Three global business partners have signed on to help the schools leverage the results: Rockwell Collins, John Deere and DuPont Pioneer.

“This is a great opportunity for Iowa to see where we stand and look at how we can better prepare students for a knowledge-based, global economy,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, co-chair of the Governor’s Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Advisory Council. “The schools’ participation demonstrates Iowans’ commitment to giving our children a world-class education.

Other Iowa schools

The other Iowa high schools joining Decorah in taking the OECD test are Adel-DeSoto-Minburn (ADM), Ames, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Pella and Cedar Rapids Washington.

“Iowa’s business sector competes worldwide not only for customers but for talent, so these results will be a welcome window into how we stack up,” said Vermeer CEO Mary Andringa who co-chairs the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. “More important than any specific outcomes, the community conversations this test will drive hold great promise for advancing education in Iowa.”