Condemning Labour's failure to hit key targets, Mr Russell called for a thorough review of the primary curriculum and the use of confirmatory tests. "We have got to get away from the publication of endless test results and I think we have got to have a much simpler system," he said.
The anti-Labour document, Milestones to Nowhere, says teachers under and overestimate pupils' abilities, pointing out that a study in Stirling showed that one in four pupils at any given time is probably at the wrong 5-14 level. The levels are said to be too broad to give accurate information.
Mr Russell believed the advent of personal learning plans would make it much easier to assess the progress of individual children. "Blanket testing of 30 or more children in a class is a concept that is old-fashioned. I don't think the present system has much life left in it," he said.
His view may chime with that of Cathy Jamieson, Education Minister, who in her response to the national debate pledged to review primary education and the first two years of secondary.
The shadow education minister also called for a clear statement on the future of Standard grade. "The future of Standard grade is very limited and we need to decide on that comparatively quickly because we have a range of schools that have abandoned it," he said.
Mr Russell further appealed for a simplification of the examination system, a point he has repeatedly made since the Scottish Parliament's inquiry into the 2000 exams fiasco.