Target tests hit the spot

6th October 1995 at 01:00
NATIONAL CURRICULUM ATTAINMENT TARGET TESTS IN MATHEMATICS. By John Healy, Hugh Morrison and Caroline Wylie. File 1 levels 2-5, Pounds 45. - 0 7195 7080 8.

File 2 levels 6-8, Pounds 35. - 0 7195 7081 6.

File 1 and File can be purchased together for Pounds 75 John Murray

It is probably now inevitable that teachers will feel the need for resources like this. While there might be doubts about the nature and usefulness of the national tests in mathematics at key stages 2 and 3, it is easy to understand why teachers would find these files of photocopiable tests useful.

The tests have gone through a rigorous series of procedures to check their validity - in other words, to see how closely they measure what they purport to measure. For the statistically minded, an Angoff standard-setting process was used, which involved between 10 and 79 teachers, judging whether a "minimally competent" pupil at a particular level, a real pupil whom they taught, would be able to answer correctly each item in a test. Discussions between the teachers about their predictions result in a mean recommended cutscore. The test was then set to their pupils, 13,294 in all.

There is an interesting section in each file which explains this procedure, and you can be reasonably confident that the cutscore for each of the tests - the score at or above which the pupil is awarded the level - will produce a fair distribution. There is a test for each attainment target at each level, which should take about 30 minutes to administer. Teachers' notes for each test indicate the assessment objectives and the materials required, and mark schemes are provided. The tests are clearly laid out, and the language levels seem appropriate.

It is a pity, however, that there is only one test at each level per attainment target. Although teachers will presumably only administer the tests when they are fairly confident that a pupil has reached that particular level, some will undoubtedly need to retake the test, and problems of familiarity with the test items or fear of "failing" for a second time could arise.

This is a well-produced resource, and, providing that teachers resist the temptation to "teach to the test", one which could prove useful to teachers wishing to use it for diagnostic and reporting purposes.

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