Sunday, 3 January 2010

Standardised tests lift student achievement - Yeah, right

Here's a story that will not be quoted by Education Minister Anne Tolley as she continues her controversial "measuring it will make it better" testing regime for primary schools. The story is 10 years old, from the period when the Americans started doing the same thing. (They've mostly moved away from standardised testing, once they realised that if you want a pig to grow, feeding it is better than constantly taking it out and weighing it.)
"An internal auditor has found that teachers and administrators at 32 New York, N.Y., schools helped students cheat on standardized tests. In some cases, test proctors filled in answer sheets for the students. At P.S. 234, the principal would point out incorrect answers and demand that students “do that one over,” said Edward Stancik, who oversees 1,100 schools. With that kind of help, P.S. 234's scores for third graders, which measure what percentage of students read at the appropriate grade level, dramatically rose from 29 percent to 51 percent. (AP)"
(Thanks to Randy Cassingham's This Is True for the link.)

I have a question for Ms Tolley - if your testing works, and all those lazy do-nothing kids and teachers suddenly start working hard and raising their performance, what happens next year? The average score for the class will rise, but half the kids will still "fail", after all. I remember another great National Party educational thinker, Keith Holyoake , saying in 1969 that it's not good enough that "half our children are below average", so this kind of statistical muddlement seems to be a tradition among the Tories. Maybe Ms Tolley could take a lead from Garrison Keillor's home town of Lake Wobegon, where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average".

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