In a meeting this week we were discussing testing year 8 students. One reason is to give students an understanding and make testing in VCE a less fearful spectre and second as a means of deciding on recipients for some scholarships. I started thinking about the testing that will be done by us and the national testing schemes. Above is a video from the US about testing but will it also be a case of what happens here. I hope we can avoid the implications.
We often have politicians and those in the media discussing testing students. We now have national tests in literacy and numeracy, NAPLAN. Whilst this has been common place in America, England and other countries 2008 was the first time we had the same test Australia-wide.
There seems to be a requirement to take the results and then to rank schools and students. These league tables, for example, do not show entry skill levels and can be quite misleading. Schools are still expected to report on student achievement in national tests in their annual reports which, at least in Victoria, are published on the schools website. The socio-economic background of the students, the wealth of the school and the the opportunities the school can offer its students is not a consideration.
To help the student perform better will teachers spend some time or a lot of time teaching the students how to do well in the test, preparing them as well as they can, by teaching about the test language? In other words, will they be teaching to the test? What are they then teaching about things that are less easily put onto a test? Wider, broader concepts or more local priorities?
There is a case for teaching kids how to approach tests/exams. The test language and the unfamiliar test conditions can be off-putting and difficult for students. The best tests provide some data to teachers/educators that enable them to better target resources to those students most in need of additional support and point to areas for extension for those that do well. They therefore can be instrumental in adding the curriculum development in schools. They are just another means to help teachers best prepare their students for life. The poor tests will result in unfair targeting, finger pointing and lead to the subject of the song in the video. They will not provide a good basis for the education of our young people.