No need to fear 'ambush' tests

5th May 2000 at 01:00
I'D LIKE to make some points about the report, "Fury at tests ambush" (TESS, April 21). First, a point of correction. The tests under consideration in the pilot project in Glasgow, the Maths 6-14 and Progress in English 6-14 series, are produced by the NFER-Nelson Publishing Company, a separate organisation from both Thomas Nelson and the NFER.

Several Scottish authorities and our partner schools in Scotland have successfully introduced these standardised tests. The tests are used because of concerns about the reliability and validity of the national tests, but also because they provide a different type of assessment information from the national system. The two sorts of information (and other information such as pastoral) are then used to inform teaching and learning for each individual child (differentiation), for the class, and so on.

These series of tests have been carefully developed in terms of curriculum content and difficulty for their intended age ranges, such that they are able to give useful information about most pupils. Both provide age-standardised scores but also year-on-year progress scores and diagnostic information about areas of strength and areasfor development.

Each test may be used at any time within the academic year, depending on the assessment purpose. It is possible to give the tests outside their intended age range to meet the needs of less and more able pupils.

Both series may be marked and scored electronically and the data analysed and output in a range of user-friendly ways.

The Educational Institute of Scotland and others are rightly raising questions about responses to the national review of 5-14 assessment, and we all await with interest the minister's decisions following the consultation. In the end, these questions have to be about issues such as: will an effective assessment system be manageable?

How useful will the outcomes of assessment be at individual child level through to authority level? How can an effective assessment system serve the needs of all? What are the workload implications for teachers; and do the benefits for teaching and learning outweigh the costs?

Answers are needed to these questions and the purpose of pilot projects is to help provide them.

Miles Halliwell

Director of research

NFER-Nelson Publishing

Windsor

Berkshire


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