Growth in national assessments?

With the implementation of new state tests (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) connected to the Common Core in the US, it has been hard to avoid concerns about the quality and extent of testing in the US in recent weeks (including in Delaware, Minnesota, Ohio, and California among others). At a recent seminar series from the Laboratory of International Assessment Studies, however, I also heard reports about the marked growth in the use of national assessments in many other countries. Although the new state tests in the US provide data on the performance of individual students and schools, the 2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report to be released in April, will include data on the number of national learning assessments (designed to provide information on system performance) conducted worldwide since 1990. As initially reported in “Improving, not over-hauling learning assessments post-2015,” that report will show that the number of countries administering national assessments has doubled in the last twenty-five years:

Before 2000, national tests were conducted in:

  • 49% of developed countries
  • 34% of developing countries
  • 6% of countries in transition

Between 2000-2013, national tests were conducted in:

  • 82% of developed countries
  • 65% of developing countries
  • 78% of countries in transition

The FHI 360 Education Policy and Data Center (EPDC) also released results of the National Learning Assessment Mapping Project (N-LAMP). As described in a blog post on the key findings, the project reviewed data on standardized exams and assessments administered at the national level from primary to upper secondary education in a sample of 125 countries from 6 regions of the world. They identified 403 national-level learning assessments from 105 countries. The majority of the assessments (55%) were low-stakes national large-scale student assessments (NLSA’s sample-based assessments used to monitor the performance of education systems like those documented in the Global Monitoring report). Most of the remaining assessments were high stakes exams (mandatory assessments required for completing a given level of schooling or gaining admission to the next level). Not surprisingly, the project found that almost all of the assessments focused on “Literacy & Communication” and “Numeracy & Maths,” with more than half also addressing “Science & Technology.” Nonetheless, other domains were represented with 73 assessments addressing “Social & Emotional” domains, 33 addressing “Physical Well-Being” and 11 addressing “Learning Approaches & Cognition.”

Also worth noting for those interested in international assessments, Teachers College Record has a new theme issue focusing on PISA, “Moving Beyond Country Rankings in International Assessments: The Case of PISA.”

Thomas Hatch

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