Your views on Inational testing

23rd June 2000 at 01:00
Linda Scotland, English teacher, Tynecastle High, Edinburgh

I was disappointed that your article on national testing (TES Scotland Plus, May 19) did not contain any comments from classroom teachers - those who have to administer the tests.

I am a secondary school English teacher. As far as I am aware the correct arrangements for national testing are not being followed in many (or any?) English departments. Pupils are being block tested, which is against the guidelines.

The tests assess only a small part of the curriculum. While it could be argued that the reading tests are national and standardised, given that mark schemes are provided along with threshold scores, there is no standardisation in the writing tests as they involve the teacher interpreting the grade-related criteria. As John Nethercott, vice-president of the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland, pointed out, "The assessments in the writing papers are particularly subjective" ad, indeed, cross-marking does show different interpretations of the criteria.

There is no guarantee that the pupil has completed all the work at a particular level before being tested. Indeed, pupil reports have indicated that a pupil is working at a particular level but has passed the national test at the level above.

The tests impose an extra unnecessary layer of assessment which is confirmatory. What is being confirmed is that the teacher has administered the national test and agreed with her own previous assessment. What needs to be confirmed is that the teacher's assessment conforms to national standards.

We need clearer guidance on the use of the writing grade-related criteria. Either that or the guidelines need to be rewritten in a way which would lead to easier and more uniform interpretation.

The national tests are time consuming and unnecessary. They put extra stress on pupils and add considerably to teacher workload.


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