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National Testing


John Simkin
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Will Woodward, chief political correspondent

Wednesday December 27, 2006

The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1978715,00.html

The national testing regime for pupils aged 11 and 14 in England should be scrapped, a thinktank with close links to Tony Blair's government says today.

In two reports, the Institute of Public Policy Research joins union calls for compulsory standard assessment tests (Sats) at the end of key stage two and three to be abolished and replaced largely by a system of continuing teacher assessment. But it also argues for new measures to make schools and teachers accountable.

The IPPR says too many schools are "teaching to the test" in an effort to boost their standing in league tables. Such short tests in the key subjects lead to "unreliable results".

Instead, pupils would take a small number of national tests, but not in every area of every subject. Those results would be used to measure the school's performance but not individual attainment, and help moderate the teachers' own assessments.

Under the IPPR plan schools would give a "three Rs guarantee", promising to identify children at risk of failing to achieve the expected standard.

Pupils falling behind in reading in their first year of primary school, and in reading, writing and mathematics after key stage one at the age of seven, would be entitled to intensive one-to-one tuition.

The IPPR says the Department for Education and Skills should be required, under its public service agreements with the Treasury, to improve the performance of disadvantaged pupils and lower the gap with average attainment.

It also argues that not enough is being done to support struggling pupils. Only 7% of children who failed to reach the required standards in reading, writing and maths at 11 achieved five A*-C grade GCSEs, the standard measure of success at 16.

"An end to national key stage testing should make space for better teaching and learning, but it would also mean new assessment responsibilities for teachers," said Richard Brooks, associate director of the IPPR. "We need a 'new deal' where teachers and heads are respected and held accountable as professionals.

"Many pupils currently get stuck at the beginning of secondary school, even in some cases after they made good progress at primary school. If secondary schools had a progress target for all pupils they would have to focus on the needs of each pupil, even where average attainment in the school was good."

Since 2004 the government has reduced the pressure on teachers over tests at key stage one. The IPPR says, however, that external testing has "decisively eclipsed" teacher assessment from age seven onwards. Wales has already scrapped Sats at 11 and 14 and abolished school performance tables too. Many parents agree with the teacher unions that such tests put unnecessary pressure on pupils. But the government in England regards them as a necessary public guarantor of basic standards. The Conservatives are committed to continuing with them if they win the next election.

"Key stage tests are here to stay - they are a non-negotiable part of school reform," a spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said. "They are not designed to be pass-or-fail examinations and we have stressed that preparation time should be kept to an absolute minimum and that teachers help children prepare best when they teach the core subjects as fully and effectively as possible."

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Wales has already scrapped Sats at 11 and 14 and abolished school performance tables too.

And are the standards in Wales dropping as a result? I would think not. Out govt in Australia is also madly bent on continuous benchmark testing and if the standards don't improve they lower the benchmark till they do - really educationally sound practice.

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Article from Western Australia newspaper on testing!

Test mark of 22pc deemed OK (page 6)

by Jessica Strutt

A score of 44 per cent was the most any child needed to be deemed to have adequate literacy and numeracy skills

"WA primary school students were deemed to have met the minimum benchmark set in this year's literacy and numeracy assessment even if they scored marks as low as 22 per cent in some of the tests. [see Table, below]

[several paragraphs restating the results shown in the table]

"Shadow education minister Peter Collier said parents would be shocked to find out how low a mark their child could get while still being considered to have acceptable levels of literacy and numeracy. If those low benchmarks reflected what was deemed an acceptable standard of numeracy and literacy, it was time for the standards to be reassessed. [emphasis added]

"Parents and the community at large would be staggered to learn that the benchmarks in some instances were as low as 22 per cent," he said.

"Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop said results were disappointing and further justified the Federal Government's decision to address the issue of poor literacy standards..."

"Education Minister Mark McGowan declined to comment."

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Wales has already scrapped Sats at 11 and 14 and abolished school performance tables too.

And are the standards in Wales dropping as a result? I would think not. Out govt in Australia is also madly bent on continuous benchmark testing and if the standards don't improve they lower the benchmark till they do - really educationally sound practice.

One of the consequences of devolution is that Wales and Scotland are ditching the conservative legislation brought in by Thatcher and continued by Blair.

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