UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

March 18, 2009

BRITISH SCHOOL SCANDAL RAISES CONCERN OVER U.S. TESTING OBSESSION

Guardian, UK - An investigation into the marking of Sats by the government's own exams agency has revealed that nearly half of grades awarded for some papers are wrong, prompting new calls for the controversial tests taken by every 11-year-old in England to be scrapped.


A review of the marking of test papers by the Qualification and Curriculum Authority found that in English writing tests taken at aged 14, 44% of grades awarded were wrong, in reading up to a third were faulty and in science up to one in six were wrong. Math tests were found to be accurate. . .

Ministers abolished tests for 14-year-olds last year in the wake of the collapse of the marking process last summer. But they insisted tests for 11-year-olds should stay, setting up an expert group to consider their future. . .

Previous research by academics has suggested that up to one in three results are inaccurate but the fact that this research was conducted by the government's own exam agency will put pressure on ministers to . . .

The QCA employed ordinary markers to re-mark a sample of test papers taken in 2006 and 2007, with senior examiners providing a second opinion to see whether the levels, or grades, awarded to pupils were accurate. The results confirmed longheld concerns teachers have had about accuracy, particularly about English results, which involve longer written answers leaving more scope for error. . .

A separate paper from the QCA revealed that record numbers of schools had appealed the results of 150,000 papers taken last year when the marking process collapsed under the management of a new company, ETS. Some 22,000 appeals resulted in new levels being awarded. But it said there was "no particular cause for concern" about the quality of last year's marks as a result. . .

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers said that Sats had now been proved unviable and should be scrapped. "The government's Sats policy is not viable. There's no reason to expect that the situation is any different in primary schools."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "We always feared that the assessment house for 14-year-olds was built on sand and this proves it.". . .

Wikipedia - Educational Testing Service (or ETS) is the world's largest private educational testing and measurement organization, operating on an annual budget of approximately $1.1 billion on a proforma basis in 2007. ETS develops various standardized tests primarily in the United States for K-12 and higher education, but they also administer tests such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language TOEFL, Test of English for International Communication TOEIC, and Graduate Record Examination GRE internationally. . .

In England and Wales ETS Europe was contracted to operate the National Curriculum assessments on behalf of the government. ETS took over this role from Edexcel in 2008. The first year of their operation was struck by a number of problems, including the late arrival of scripts to examiners, a database of student entries being unavailable, and countrywide reports of problems with the marking of the papers. . . Their contract with the QCA was terminated in August 2008: ETS is to pay back L19.5m and cancel invoices worth L4.6m.

ETS has been criticized for being a "highly competitive business operation that is as much multinational monopoly as nonprofit institution".

Problems administering England's national tests in 2008 by ETS Europe were the subject of thousands of complaints recorded by the Times Educational Supplement. Their operations were also described as a "shambles" in the UK Parliament, where a financial penalty was called for. Complaints included papers not being marked properly, or not being marked at all and papers being sent to the wrong schools or lost completely. . .

The Better Business Bureau gives ETS the grade of 'F'.

Guardian, UK - Sixty teachers and teaching assistants helped pupils cheat in their GCSEs or A-levels or were guilty of some other "malpractice" in exam halls last summer, the exam watchdog revealed. Of the 60 exam [overseers] caught, 42 were found to be helping pupils in the middle of examsSome 1,618 students brought "unauthorised" material into an exam room, such as a mobile phone. Just over a quarter - 1,037 - of the incidents of malpractice were for plagiarism, failure to acknowledge sources, copying from other candidates or collusion. Some 476 students were penalised for being disruptive.

Guardian,UK, February 2009 - The Cambridge review of primary education has been three years in the making. More than 70 academics have produced 29 reports with thousands of children, parents, teachers and head teachers taking part in surveys across the country. It presents a damning view of the primary curriculum, which it suggests has failed generations of children, as well as a blueprint for a radical new kind of schooling.

What is wrong with the curriculum?

There is an over-emphasis on the skills of reading, writing and maths at the expense of other subjects, the report claims. This limits children's enjoyment of school and risks severely compromising their natural curiosity, imagination and love of learning, it says.

National testing at 11 has meant schools focus on short-term learning at the cost of children's long-term development. The most "conspicuous casualties" are arts and the humanities. Learning that requires time for talking, problem solving and exploring ideas is sacrificed for what it describes as a "memorization and recall" style of learning.

There is a false belief, it claims, that a focus on basic skills combined with a breadth of learning covering a full range of subjects cannot be achieved. This is a false debate, according to the report's lead author, Robin Alexander, of Cambridge University, who cites evidence that schools that blend literacy and numeracy into the wider teaching of other subjects often get the best results. . .

Guardian, UK - Soulless schools cursed by league tables and dominated by "formulaic" exams are squeezing the lifeblood out of education, leading headteacher and political commentator Anthony Seldon will warn tomorrow.

The 21st-century obsession with teaching "facts" harks back to Thomas Gradgrind's utilitarian values in Dickens's Hard Times, he will say in a hard-hitting lecture to the College of Teachers. The result is a system that stifles imagination, individuality and flair.

In an extraordinary indictment of the national examination system, Dr Seldon, master of Wellington College and biographer of former prime minister Tony Blair, will claim that we are forgetting the very purpose of education. "Many parents, many teachers, will recognize it. Schools need to be liberating places, but it is very hard to do it with the utter throttling, choking straitjacket of the national examination system curriculum," he told the Observer

In Britain, he advocates a severe cut-back of external testing and examinations, which he claims have increased because of a lack of trust of schools, heads and teachers. . .

He will claim that schools have concentrated on a very narrow definition of intelligence: the logical and the linguistic, at the expense of cultural, physical, social, personal, moral and spiritual intelligence. He will add that we should be asking: "Not how intelligent is a child but rather, how is the child intelligent?"

Seldon will argue the case for bringing back playing fields, placing orchestras and music at the heart of the curriculum, and offering dance, physical exercise, outdoor adventure and challenge to everyone.

"Dickens's message is as timely and urgent for us in 2009 as it was in 1854," Seldon will argue. "It is that soulless, loveless, desiccated education damages children for a lifetime. Education should be an opening of the heart and mind. That is what education means; it is this, or it is nothing."

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home