Showing posts with label standardised testing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label standardised testing. Show all posts

Monday, May 18, 2009

Another IOTY candidate

The next nomination for idiot of the year goes to Barry McGaw chairman of the National Curriculum Board for his statement "the new standards will clearly show what skills and knowledge a student should aim for at each year level, making it easier for teachers to identify student progress and to help them."

A co-nomination goes to Caroline Milburn author of the article in The Age that says "Teachers will no longer be the sole judge of a student's work, after a landmark decision by the National Curriculum Board to introduce year-by-year achievement standards for pupils. For the first time, all teachers in Australian schools will have to use the same achievement benchmarks to measure student progress."

We know from MCJ in WA and how league tables are used that standards do not make it any easier to identify student progress as variables that define student learning are (in general) too various to adequately define. The only thing that standardised testing has done has reduced many good schools to "teaching to the test". No test has a better idea of student progress than a good teacher.

Caroline Milburn you are just publishing sensationalist tripe, if history repeats itself, we will just be given a load of generalist edubabble descriptions and unusable work samples that produce unscientific and statistically unsound assessment. Not to mention that standardising results across Australia has minimal use or effect other than for systemic discussion (which has no place in the hands of the public - see below).

My rant earlier today on this topic on the Education Matters forum went like this..

"I thought that we had learned from the smartie chart fiasco [in WA] that standardising grades is an exceptionally stupid idea.

Student A is trying their hardest but has little support at home. They are in a low socio-economic school, have peers in similar situations and have no chance to compete with students from leafy green schools. So each year, teacher has to give them a 'D' or somehow find them a scholarship, remove them from their social peers and hope that they can handle the social stigma attached to being in a higher SEI school.

The student without a scholarship gets sick of receiving D's (despite their attempts at catching up and working really hard). This is the same student that given a higher grade would have caught up and done really well in senior school, be a TEE candidate and contribute to urban renewal in low socio-economic areas (this kid was me - which is why I am so passionate about the idiocy of standardisation in this manner).

It also works the other way around. Student B does bugger all in school, but achieves an A because they have reached the benchmark. Without the motivation to push themselves further they don't learn a good work ethic.. Two years later they fail senior school as they hit their ability curve and have no drive to fall back on. It is just such a b*llsh*t idea.

School is about excellence and doing your best - not about standardisation and "fairness" in grading. Anyone with half a brain can see the flaws in it. TEE examinations provide the cross school moderation and that is where it should stay. I fear though that the drive for standardisation comes from government fear of litigation and the need to defer risk to schools where legislation and procedure provide some protection."

and then again later..

"Standardisation creates the same issues under a different guise. It potentially dictates that I teach material that is clearly beyond the student capabilities. I have no problem with suggested standards nor syllabus (syllabii?) but I do have an issue where I lack the ability to modify it where required. To demand that I teach algebra in term 1 year 7 when my kids can't do simple operations means that I would waste two terms teaching inappropriate material. To have to fill out twenty pages of documents to justify the delay (I know I'm projecting here but I have some understanding of how bureaucracies work) would do my head in.

Whilst we are on the topic of standardisation, to give these same students a standardisation test that tells them they are below benchmark (translate that to dumb in kidspeak) and destroy fragile confidence because the test is effectively two terms early is also wrong. I'm not sure of the purpose of these tests other than to satisfy curiosity of head office and parents. If they were internal tools that we could use to gauge performance and modify curricula to suit I would support them - but as yet all I have seen is judgements made about students, niggling comments about teachers, and misapplication of developmental/environmental causes rather than teaching or intelligence based assessment.

Either we value the judgement of our teachers or we use standardised testing. To continue the devaluation of teacher judgement in lieu of creating a better system needs further analysis as I don't think we are doing the education system any favours by pursuing a course of teaching to tests and the associated pressure of high stakes testing on children. "

Now I feel better.