Scan of Ed News: Testing

Since 1995, children have been required to sit literacy and numeracy tests in their last year of primary school. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

Since 1995, children have been required to sit literacy and numeracy tests in their last year of primary school. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

Over the past month, a number of reports indicate a variety of concerns about testing around the world.  For example, Israel’s new Education Minister, Shai Pironhas decided to introduce reforms that would de-emphasize testing in order to “promote learning.” Similarly, China is taking small steps towards allowing educators to have input in test design (as opposed to government only). In contrast, the British government is acting in opposition to educators and parents to fight off an unprecedented alliance of hundreds of students, schools, local councils, and teaching unions, who brought a legal challenge over last year’s GCSE English exam grades. UK teachers are also protesting primary literacy exams, which they say leave little time for art, music, and books, and make children feel like failures. Chile has announced sweeping changes to the country’s university entrance exam, which has received criticism for flaws and bias; however, the concern in this case was not raised by educators and parents, but by Pearson, a company that describes itself as a leading provider of test development, processing and scoring services to educational institutions, corporations and professional bodies around the world. Pearson’s analysis revealed significant flaws and bias in the design of the exam.

In Singapore, surveys recently revealed that many educators and parents feel that students experience too much testing and a report on a recent visit by Dr. Dennis Shirley highlighted his suggestion that  the task of student assessment be handed over to the teachers, so that they can design their own modes of testing.  While the Singapore government has proposed several initiatives aimed at strengthening efforts to help every student succeed, none yet include substantial modifications to testing. While it might seem that the decision made by five schools in the town of Alesund, Norway, to change the date of the midterm exams so that students could attend a Justin Bieber concert in Olso, was an effort to modify testing to meet the needs of the students, it was also one for which officials saw no alternative. As one principal explained, they expected Mr. Bieber’s show would lead to sparse classroom attendance. “We considered that this was a battle that we could not win this time,” he said.

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