It’s taken me a while to update this blog with the latest missives on teaching to the test – as ever, it’s hard to keep up with the evidence piling up on this subject, and some of these go back over several weeks now – but here goes: – Ofsted put out a report on maths teaching which included the finding criticising “teaching to the test”. Rising exam results in the past decade were not proof that pupils were getting better at the subject, it added. Among its findings were: “Evidence suggests that strategies to improve test and examination performance, including ‘booster’ lessons, revision classes and extensive intervention, coupledRead More →

I would urge anyone interested in the effects of statistics-led schooling to read a recent paper by Cynthia Bartlett, head of an Oxfordshire comprehensive. Cynthia, who took a sabattical to research and write the 68-page report, describes hyper-accountability as a “tragedy”, for vulnerable pupils in particular. Her paper includes findings gleaned from a survey of 22 of her fellow Oxfordshire secondary heads, and comes with copious research evidence. The testing, targets and tables regime is setting up a sharp divide between schools, Cynthia argues. Those serving more prosperous areas, typically with better results, are able to give disadvantaged or “vulnerable” students the attention they deserve. Those with more childrenRead More →

Most newspapers have included opinion pieces on the testing regime in recent days, with few articles dissenting from what seems now to be the mainstream view that serious reform is needed. This, of course, has been triggered in large part by the chaos of this summer’s marking, overseen by the now-sacked contractor ETS Europe. Ed Balls, in an article in The Independent, argued that the administrative problems surrounding this year’s Sats should not encourage people to lose sight of the “bigger picture”, which is that the tests have been an important lever in “driving up standards”. There was also a defence of assessment and target-settingRead More →

Yesterday saw near blanket coverage of concerns about the testing system, fuelled largely by a report from the Civitas think tank, which found 90 per cent of secondary teachers refusing to trust the results of pupils who took the tests in year six. Teaching to the test was widely blamed. Admittedly, the sample was small: only just over 100 staff were questioned, as ministers were quick to point out. However, the survey is in line with research among science teachers published earlier this year for the Wellcome Trust, (a summary of which is here) which found that most were happier to trust teacher assessment judgements than test results, withRead More →

Researching an article on the effect on schools’  test performance of special educational needs pupils last week, I came across a report written two years ago by the Commons Education and Skills Select Committee on SEN education.   I found this replete with concerns about how the standards agenda – the drive, supported by league tables, targets and Ofsted inspections, to raise pupils’ average test and exam results – may be marginalising children with special needs.   The danger should be fairly obvious: schools which are going to be judged by their results may be discouraged to take on children who might be seen to beRead More →

Thursday brought more publicity for the Open Eye campaign, which is challenging aspects of the Government’s Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) proposals. I must admit that I’m not completely up to speed with this debate, since early years has never been an area of specialism for me at the TES. However, it does seem that some of the arguments and concerns here are very similar to those affecting the education of 5- to 18-year-olds, including the effects of what might be seen as excessive Government control, the possible over-interpretation of statistics by Whitehall and the unintended consequences of superficially well-meaning policies. The foremost worries, for me,Read More →

Estelle Morris, the former education secretary, today became the latest person to call on the Government to investigate test-driven schooling. I also found this story, in London’s Evening Standard, interesting:    Read More →

Today was an extraordinary day, even notwithstanding the fact that we are in the middle of arguably the biggest education story for years: the current test marking fiasco. What was remarkable was that Barry Sheerman, Labour chairman of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, chose to put out a press release in response to the Government’s own reaction to his committee’s report on assessment, which had highlighted widespread problems. Ministers, he said, had “missed the point”  by being unwilling to concede that teaching to the test was a widespread problem. Widespread teaching to the test, which many schools feel forced into because of the pressuresRead More →