Letters extra: objective tests

16th May 2001 at 01:00

Jennifer Chew (Letters May 4) makes a mistake common among those who advocate the frequent testing of students: that is, an assumption about what is and what isn't "objective".

For instance, we have read over the years that some SATs tests are "easier" than others, and that some marking thresholds have been "altered". The subjective element in this does not appear on the test papers because it is political. Nevertheless, it is real.

Again, there is a subjective element in comparing today's test results with previous ones. Did yesterday's primary children learn their reading during literacy hours and a manic regime of testing? Any change in scores between then and now (on what are, in any case, different tests - where's the "objectivity" in that?) would have to take into account the varying overall regimes that children experience, and not just assume that they are down to phonics.

In short, it seems that appeals to objectivity are highly subjective disclaimers on funding: that it's better teaching, and teachers, that will solve the problems, not more money; that class size doesn't matter, and so on.

Richard Dillon
Chesterfield, Derbyshire

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