Design Considerations for the Program for International Student Assessment

Authored by: Jonathan P. Weeks , Matthias von Davier , Kentaro Yamamoto

Handbook of International Large-Scale Assessment

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  November  2013

Print ISBN: 9781439895122
eBook ISBN: 9781439895146
Adobe ISBN:


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The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a collaborative effort commissioned by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to provide international comparisons of student performance in reading, math, and science. These comparisons include snapshots of achievement in a given year in addition to trend information. The assessment is administered every 3 years and has a unique design; every time PISA is administered, one of the three content areas is treated as a major domain while the other two are treated as minor domains. This major/minor domain design is implemented by reducing the number of items for each of the minor domains relative to the full set of items that would have been used for a major domain; there is a reduction in items of around 40–75%, depending on the content domain. This reduction in the number of items has the potential to introduce bias into estimates of country means. The question of interest for this chapter is how the PISA design can be modified in a way that maintains an emphasis on the major/minor domain perspective while minimizing bias and potential issues in the linking process, which are likely to affect trend results.

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