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The Real Lesson of PISA

By Jose Ferreira, Knewton founder & CEO

The 2012 PISA results are due out at the end of this year. With their release is sure to come another prolonged period of navel-gazing about what’s wrong with [insert your country here]’s schools, curriculum, teachers, and education system as a whole.

PISA assesses 15-year-olds’ performance in three areas: math, science, and reading. The study started in 2000 and has been performed every three years since.

In 2009, the U.S. landed solidly in the middle of the rankings: 31st in math, 23rd in science, and 17th in reading out of 74 countries. The headlines were dramatic. All Americans left behind! Red scores rising! America’s woeful public schools! U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proclaimed, “Americans need to wake up to this educational reality – instead of napping at the wheel while emerging competitors prepare their students for economic leadership.”

There are many problems with education both in America and in the rest of world. Dramatically increasing global access to education for those who don’t have it, and quality for all who do, is one of the most important tasks facing the human race today. But what, if anything, do PISA rankings tell us about this?

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Ed Tweets of the Month

New Knerds

Meet seven new team members ›

Meet eight of our summer interns (more to come!) ›

Ed Efforts We Admire

Teachers and students are education’s primary stakeholders. But the education world also includes policymakers, administrators, innovators, and many others. 

At a time of great change for the industry, and with so many interests at play, it’s crucial that there are thought leaders helping to frame conversations and inform action. The Clayton Christensen Institute (formerly the Innosight Institute) is among the most prominent of these leaders. A nonprofit, nonpartisan think-tank, the Institute was founded on the theories of Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen, the father of “disruptive innovation” theory.

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Watch Knewton featured in this Today Show story on the future of education.

Read about Knewton in TIME Magazine: The Adaptive Learning Revolution.


This month, Knewton announced a partnership with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) to bring truly personalized learning experiences to traditional K-12 students.

HMH currently serves 60 million students in 120 countries. Now, HMH's core educational products — in subjects including math, English Language Learning, and reading — will feature Knewton technology.

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June 23 - 26
ISTE 2013 - Knewton Founder & CEO Jose Ferreira will be in San Antonio. 

June 27 
NYC Machine Learning Meetup 

June 27
Made in New York: Tech Panel - Tech in Motion meetup featuring Knewton COO David Liu along with other tech leaders. 

July 9
NYC Python Meetup

July 11
Software Product Managers Meetup

July 16
NYC Cassandra Meetup

July 18
Kaplan TechStars

July 19-20
AT&T Education Hackathon


Learning to Code Isn't Enough (EdSurge)

MOOCs and the Future of the Humanities (LA Review of Books)

Mooresville's Shining Example (It's Not Just About the Laptops) (New York Times)