Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz and Mine Durmaz

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) studies the extent to which 15- year-old students have acquired key knowledge and skills in reading, mathematics, science and
problem solving. PISA test scores reflect not only what the students have learned but also how well they can apply that knowledge. The results of PISA for Turkey show a significant
improvement in average test scores over time. In Mathematics, Turkey’s average test score rose from 423 in 2003 to 448 in 2012, the highest increase for any country sampled in this period
except Brazil.

Because Turkey has had a period of sustained growth in per-capita income since 2002, the gains in tests scores in the country could simply be a reflection of a pure income effect: with higher
family income, students have greater home resources –computers, internet access, encyclopedias, etc.—which allow them to learn more. This study estimates that close to half of the gain in PISA math tests scores between 2003 and 2012 is plainly due to rising family socioeconomic background in the country. However, this also means that the remaining half is connected to other factors that influenced student achievement, including school-related reforms. The most important of these are: improvements in the quantity and quality of schools serving low-income families and those in less-populated areas, improved enrollment and achievement of girls, and rising teacher quality as reflected, for example, in growing teacher expectations in the classroom. At the same time, the study identifies some factors that acted to reduce tests scores between 2003 and 2012: greater student absenteeism (as identified by school principals), which suggests declining student motivation in schools, and rising overage, that is, the presence of older students in any given grade.

doc. ResearchBrief174

pdf. ResearchBrief174