More work needed on testing

1st September 1995 at 01:00
Your readers may be interested in my experience of taking 10 Year 6 children with moderate learning difficulties through the key stage 2 national curriculum tests.

Our most notable finding was that science was at least a level easier than English or maths. In fact eight out of 10 children acquired level 2 in science while eight of 10 achieved level 1 in English and nine out of 10 level 1 maths; the other was "W". Level 1 and 2 Science seemed to largely depend on general conceptual development while the other subjects required some actual academic competence.

The gap between level 1 and 2 in reading was huge; only two of my class could make that leap. There were not enough instructions on how much (or little) help the children could receive with their writing. The test seemed to assume that all children between levels 1 and 6 can write unaided. This, of course, is far from the case. My assistant and I gave our children their usual amount of assistance which requires: help in thinking what to say; considerable help with word finding; help in remembering where they are with the sentence and lots of re-reading; and constant coaxing to actually do the task.

There was not enough time for many of the class to complete the handwriting: why limit it to five minutes? Some of them found the words they had to copy over-long and lost their way; others tried to copy a printed "a".

The spelling was difficult because of the cloze procedure format; poor readers found it hard to follow my reading and did not know which blank they should fill in; hard and easy words were mixed up so that the children had been demoralised by the harder words and then often could not do the simpler words many of which came later.

Our biggest concern with maths was how much harder level 1 and 2 are at KS2 than at KS1. We had thought that the levels were supposed to remain the same throughout all key stages.

For example, at both key stages children have to demonstrate their competence in adding and subtracting to 10, but at KS1 all the sums are presented horizontally and at KS2 they are mixed horizontally and vertically and the children have to find and cross off the answers on a quite complicated sheet.

The algebraic question at level 2 was exceptionally hard and for most of our pupils virtually wiped out any chance of a level 2; the child needed to be able to see the pattern and be able to complete the missing numbers which required counting forwards and backwards in twos and threes.

A lot more work needs to be done before teachers of statemented children can feel any value in putting pupils through the trauma of a test situation for the dubious benefit of achieving a very low level.


141 Ware Road Hertford, Hertfordshire

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