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testing

This tag is associated with 50 posts

She’ll be right – a short poem.

Exhausted teachers clinging on for the last few weeks, tapping out reports at home on your dining room tables, this poem is for you.

Testing

~ Dianne

Education: Are we counting what counts?

Yong ZhaoYong Zhao spoke to a packed house full of educators (in the holidays, no less) about how the purpose of education has changed and what educators have to do prepare students for the future.

Zhao asked some challenging questions, inviting us to think why we do what we do and how it might be different. He questioned the growth in testing and measuring learning, asking why it happens and what value it has.

Some of the thought-provoking things that Zhao asked us to consider included:

  • What must we teach and what is optional?
    • Why?
  • What is success?
    • Failure?
  • Is the focus on a ‘growth mindset’ a good thing?
    • What are the alternatives?
  • What do we need to do to equip students to meet future employment needs?
    • Is it the same for everyone?
  • If someone is missing skills in ‘the basics’, at what cost do we ‘fill the gap’?
    • What could we do instead?
Giving us much to think about, the talk is an excellent prompt for further discussion, perhaps at staff meetings, or even in class.
Zhao isn’t just knowledgeable and informative – he’s very entertaining, too. He’s a great speaker and a would-be stand-up comedian, which makes this an enjoyable talk.
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It’s definitely worth any educator’s time to watch.
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About Yong Zhao: Zhao is an expert on educational models, and has published 30 books and over 100 articles on education. His full bio is here. You can read more about his thinking here.

This talk was part of a Wellington forum that took place on 20th July 2016, sponsored by NZEI Te Riu Roa.

National testing of primary school students is political not educational

The letter below is from Beth Beynon, a mother in the UK, distressed at the impact of testing on her child.

Please, NZ, trust us that have seen both countries’ education systems first hand when we say NZ had it right in the first place by having in-class testing that was not made public or used to label children.

Please don’t let the already poor National Standards mutate gradually into this horror story – which it will, if we just sit by sighing and muttering but fail to stand up and be counted.

Testing should be there to inform the teacher and the student about what is learned already and where they might go next. It is a learning tool. It is not a labelling tool. Or, more accurately, it shouldn’t be.

Read the letter and consider where NZ is going:

“Dear Prime Minister,

crying childToday my daughter got her Year 6 SATS results. Level 4 across the board which, my years of teaching experience tell me, is absolutely spot on for Year 6.

So can you tell me why she has spent today in tears? Why she’s lying on her bed sobbing, because she knows she’s not good enough?

There’s a part of me that barely has the energy to write this. To ask you why you insist on putting 10 and 11 year olds through a system that takes nothing of child development or good pedagogy in to account, or why you put relentless pressure on schools to up their expectations, so what was once seen as good progress is suddenly a failure. But why bother? Why bore you with analogies of weighing pigs that nobody fed? You won’t listen to highly qualified education experts, or even people who, you know, actually teach. So I’m under no illusion that you will listen to me.

I do however want to tell you what is happening in my house tonight.

My funny, intelligent, artistic daughter has received a message today.

She’s average.

The government has told her so.

And that’s not good enough.

The fact that she has rhythm in her soul, a stunning singing voice and takes people’s breath away when she dances, the fact that she thinks about the meaning of life and loves to ponder the great questions like why are we here and what our purpose could be, or the way she cared for her dying Grandmother – painting her toe nails and singing to her, the way she puts her younger sister into her own bed because she woke with a bad dream.

These things that make the whole person that my daughter is. It’s all irrelevant.

She’s just average. And that’s not good enough. You’ve told her so.

Another one bites the dust.

Thing is Mr. Cameron, my daughter is wise to you. At eleven she has learned that SATS are just a game.

“I’ve not learnt anything this year Mummy,” she told me during the harrowing and stressful weeks leading up to the SATS “Just how to pass some stupid test for the stupid government”.

From the mouths of babes, Mr. Cameron, from the mouths of babes.

And so here we are. Your SATS results are in. You can number crunch to your heart’s content. You can order schools from best to worst, rank them, categorise them and make them work for you. Numbers are clever , aren’t they? Look what they did for bringing all those children out of poverty! Clever old you.

And meanwhile my daughter will go to sleep tonight despising a government that has squandered a year of her education so they can tell her she’s no more than average. And that it’s not good enough.

Oh, one more thing. She brought home her Grade Three ballet certificate today. She got a distinction.

But I don’t suppose you’re the slightest bit interested in that.

~ Beth Beynon

This is what happens when testing is done for political rather than educational reasons.

No-one in their right mind wants a testing regime that leads to so many distressed children who are doing perfectly well but now believe themselves to be ‘less than’.

As teachers, we must think seriously about what we are being complicit in, and we must ask ourselves when we are going to say “Enough”.

~ Dianne

Source:

Beth Beynon’s letter, published on Facebook

Further reading:

National Stigma – two teachers speak out

National Standards Should Not Be Published, by Prof. Martin Thrupp

Dear Principal, we are opting out of National Standards

Pearson Publishing met with global Protesters

pearson-always-earning750dpiPearson executives work hard to justify the company’s actions and frame their motives as some sort of kindness – almost a humanitarian effort. The trouble is, more and more people are convinced they are in it only for the money.

Pearson’s tagline “Always Learning” has been co-opted by those unhappy with its reach, to say “Always Earning” – understandable when the company is taking over everything from text books, to tests, to teacher certification and now owning its own schools. Its tentacles go far and wide, like a leviathan.

Yesterday SOSNZ took part in a Twitterstorm focused on Pearson Plc’s dubious behaviour around education. The protest was timed to coincide with Pearson’s AGM in London, and I was honoured to represent NZ alongside the UK and USA is spreading the word about the company’s behaviour.

At the AGM, Pearson executives had to face questions about the company’s behaviour in promoting and running for-profit schools in some of the poorest places on earth, where the daily rate to attend can be as much as half of a family’s income.  As if charging such a high rate of such poor people was not bad enough, the lessons are on tablets and must be read word-for-word by the teacher at a pace set by the app not the teacher (tough if you have a question or need to pause for any good reason). All this to classrooms crammed with 60-200 children.

A joint letter from National Union of Teachers (NUT), Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and Global Justice Now, delivered to the Pearson CEO John Fallon at the AGM, read:

“From fuelling the obsessive testing regimes that are the backbone of the “test and punish” efforts in the global north, to supporting the predatory, “low-fee” for-profit private schools in the global south, Pearson’s brand has become synonymous with profiteering and the destruction of public education.”

The USA’s voice was also heard:

“We fight this kind of profit making to get kids a good education and fight for governments which gives students a high quality education.”

said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who had flown to London to attend the AGM and be heard.

As well as pushing privatised schooling, there have been many and repeated concerns about the role of Pearson’s in promoting high stakes testing, notably in the USA.  Concerns have centred around the quality of the tests, the secrecy around them, the fact that markers are found via Craigslist and need have no educational training, and the scandal of Pearson monitoring students’ online activity for mention of the tests,

It’s shocked many to discover Pearson are not beyond tracking down a student and reporting them to the school authorities to deal with – all for Tweeting about a test.  The fact that they misrepresented the student’s actions by getting the timing and the content of the Tweet wrong is of huge concern. A multinational company chasing down one student all based on incorrect information. Big Brother would be proud.

Regarding Pearson’s infiltration of all things education, Schools Week UK reports that ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said

“School curricula should not be patented and charged for. Tests should not distort what is taught and how it is assessed.

“Unfortunately, as the profit motive embeds itself in education systems around the world, these fundamental principles come under ever greater threat leading to greater inequality and exclusion for the most disadvantaged children and young people.”

Indeed. When the education ship is being steered by those concerned mainly with profit, it is seriously off course and in danger of sinking, taking our children’s education with it.

Sources and further reading:

Protesters gatecrash Pearson’s annual general meeting over education privatisation concerns – Schools Week UK

#TellPearson Stop Cashing In On Kids

Unions and NGOs lobby Pearson to end support of low-fee private schools in Africa – Schools Week UK

Everybody hates Pearson – Fortune

Should Pearson, a giant multinational, be influencing our education policy? – The Guardian

Bill Gates, Murdoch, Pearson and other education chancers – SOSNZ

This kid nails why high stakes tests are bad education policy

Sydney Smoot, a U.S. fourth grader, shared her concerns on testing in schools with members of the Hernando County School Board at their regular meeting on March 17, 2015. She explained all that is wrong with the system she and others have been forced into, and she does it well.

Watch her speak truth to power…

Well done, Sydney – you are an inspiration.

Why Kiwi teachers fight against standardised tests

There are many reasons teachers fight standardised testing: they are not a good use of learning time, they lead to teaching to the test, results are not always reliable, and they cost a fortune.

But even beyond that, the craziness of the whole standardised testing system can be no better explained than by Bob Braun’s latest blog post about the Pearson company’s dubious behaviour.

Bob considers Pearson’s insistence that in monitoring students’ online activity it is working only in the interests of test security (i.e. to prevent cheating), and he shares this with us. But is that the full picture, asks Bob?

“Here is what the State of New Jersey and Pearson agreed encompassed the idea of security and its possible breach–it’s codified in the testing manual developed by the state and sent out to all the districts:

“Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication.””

Artwork attributed to Banksy

Let me run that by you again… students are not even allowed to talk about a test afterwards. To anyone.

“How did the test go, dear?”

“I can’t tell you, mum, or I’ll have Pearson contacting the Department of Education to send the principal down here”

“But did it go okay, dear?”

“I can neither confirm nor deny the test went okay, mum, please stop asking”

“Do you think you passed?”

“MUM! Are you trying to get me suspended? … I’m taking the fifth.”

[Eerie silence]

Read more over at Bob Braun’s Ledger.

Kiwis, thank your lucky stars we do not have this madness here … and please help us keep it that way by supporting teachers,unions and fighting the monstrosity that is the TPPA.

~ Dianne

Pearson snooping on school students’ social media?

There’s a growing outrage after reports today that Pearson Publishing have been spying on students.  It is also reported that Pearson is working with some US education departments to censure students who have discussed tests on social media after taking them. Pearson apparently likes to call this ‘listening and monitoring‘.

BLOGPEARSON

Image sourced from Bob Braun’s Ledger:

I have some questions:

  • do the students sign a non disclosure agreement (NDA) prior to the test?
  • would an NDA be valid if signed by a minor?
  • can Pearson or the education department truly order a school to discipline a student who mentions a test on social media after taking it?
  • do Pearson understand we are in a digital age and discussing matters on social media is akin to talking face to face for many kids?
  • has Pearson read 1984, and if so, were they taking tips from Winston?
  • how is this a sane education system?

No doubt more will unfold on this.

US parents, if your child is harassed regarding test-taking, opting out, or anything relating to tests, you may wish to file a civil rights complaint.

Kiwi parents and teachers, if you are are thinking this doesn’t affect you, remember two things:

* all Kiwi kids have a National Student Number from the day they enter the education system, and

* the TPPA will allow companies to sue countries that they feel infringe on their trade…

Welcome to the loony world of Education Reform.

~ Dianne

Sources:

http://bobbraunsledger.com/breaking-pearson-nj-spying-on-social-media-of-students-taking-parcc-tests/

http://unitedoptout.com/2015/03/02/how-to-file-a-civil-rights-complaint/

 

Thinking differently about education

He looked at me with a crumpled face and mumbled “I can’t read it.”  There was a moment of nothingness, both of us trying not to cry. I swallowed hard. “I know, sweetie,” I said, and I rubbed the back of his hand in a bid to convey how I felt, to tell him I understood what was swarming around him. Around us both.

“I can’t make it so you don’t take the test,” I told him.  I didn’t tell him I’d tried and been turned down. I couldn’t.  Instead, I explained that it was my job to help him be able to sit those tests and do his best, be proud of himself, and stay happy. That I’d do my best to make sure we achieved that, and he shouldn’t worry, because we were an awesome team and we could do it.

I didn’t tell him that what I was doing had little to no educational value.

I didn’t tell him that the other kids would all do fine but he would fail the test.

I didn’t tell him that he was being treated disgracefully.

But he knew.

child sitting a testSo we spent the next few weeks out of the class, me, him, and a few other strugglers learning what I called “exam technique” but what really was how to survive testing without losing your marbles, your confidence and all belief in yourself.

I taught him how to scan for key words that he recognised and then guess what the question might be.  I taught him that it was worth circling (a) (b) (c) or (d) even when he had no clue what he was answering.  I taught him that it was okay to put his pencil down when it all felt too much.

And I taught him that being dyslexic was not a personal failing. I told him that kindness, perseverance, hard work, and honesty were brilliant qualities to have.  I told him he would find his place in the world.  I explained that these tests didn’t define his worth.

So the test came and went, and he didn’t cry or get stressed or panic.  He remembered the strategies and gave every test his all.

Of course, he failed.  At least according to the tests, anyway.

To me he was a hero.

At the final assembly before he and his classmates went to ‘big school’, each student had to say what they were looking forward to at the new school and what they had enjoyed at their current school.  He said he was looking forward to learning to read and his favourite thing about his time at this school was me.

I cried.

His teacher laughed.

The class’s test results were very good, overall. The teacher became a deputy head teacher the following year on the back of those great results. Great test results mean a great teacher, apparently.

Cam and I think differently.

~ Dianne

#28daysofwriting

Testing politicians are testing my patience re testing

Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good test.  Especially the PROBE reading test – all those quirky squiggles we have to do, not too erroneous for the student, and bingo, a reading age and pointers towards strengths and weaknesses.  Hurrah.

Same with maths – administer a test or two and lo and behold you have the student’s maths stage.

And in New Zealand primary schools we are still very lucky to be able to test one on one with our students in a relaxed way. We can discuss their test and their results right there and, should we wish, set to work on the goals immediately. It’s very useful.

I’m not so keen on the National Standards bit, but the tests themselves if done sensibly and well are actually really helpful.

feeling_testy_mugSo why am I all testy about testing?

I’ll tell you why: Because politicians worldwide have gone test-crazy and it has not a jot to do with improving education.

Nicky Morgan, UK Education Secretary, yesterday announced a “war” on illiteracy and innumeracy. Yes, a war. Because apparently teachers aren’t trying to teach these things anyway, despite the many hurdles, so it needs threats and a war cry to get anything done…

Or, it could be that there’s an election looming and she’s talking through her hat. There’s always that.

Either way, Ms Morgan has found a magical and ingenious way to change the fate of these illiterate and innumerate kids!  Are you ready for this – you need to be seated (possibly with Rescue Remedy to hand, or wine) …. Ms Morgan insists that by age 11 all children must get 100% in a times tables test.

All.

100%.

No wiggle room.

Yep, time tables will solve everything apparently, but only if every kid gets every single one right.

Special needs student? Learning in another language? Battered? Hungry? Disengaged? Drugged up? Got dyscalculia?  Tough, it’s 100% or you’ve failed.  Well, way to go, Ms Morgan, you clearly know something about pedagogy and about learning that escaped Piaget, Ken Robinson and most of the teaching profession.

I should mention at this point that Ms Morgan couldn’t answer the cube root of 125 when asked recently, and today refused to answer basic multiplication questions posed by journalists.  Hmmm… was it that tricky 7×8 that got her, I wonder?

And if the students in a school don’t ALL get 100%, what then?  Well then the school will be forcibly turned into an Academy, of course – yes, you guessed it, if in doubt, privatise.

All this despite Academies in England getting terrible exam results compared with non-Academy schools.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Almost like the test is set impossibly high to facilitate forced privatisation… Gasp!

And then we have the USA.

You know education reforms have gone cloud cuckoo land when 6 year olds are being given standardised tests sat in rows at computers, having to manage the computer, the mouse, follow the written instructions and all in silence. No one-on-one friendly teacher testing in a calm way for these kids – or teachers.

And then the results are sent off to a testing company. They aren’t there to discuss or to inform the student or teacher about strengths or weaknesses. How can that possibly be considered a good way to run an education system?

And if you don’t think that’s bad enough, consider the special educational needs students and ill students forced to take these tests.  Or the dying student.  Yes, you read that right:

Last year, Ethan, who was born with brain damage, has cerebral palsy and is blind, was forced to take a version of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test over the space of two weeks last year because the state of Florida required that every student take one.

Now his mom has to prove that Ethan, now in a morphine coma, is in no condition to take another test this year.

Source

And Ethan’s not the only one:

“Fourth-grader Joey Furlong was lying on a hospital bed, hooked up to various monitors for pre-brain surgery screening, when a teacher waltzed through the door holding a New York State standardized test”

Source

Or the 6 year old US kindy student who was:

“…denied a bathroom break in her kindergarten class and was forced to sit in her diarrhea during a test session at school.”

Source

Yes, the global education reforms march steadily on, creating a crisis via rhetoric and ridiculous tests so they can justify privatising schools.  And all the time there are children, parents and teachers in the mix who are being very badly served and who are fighting tooth and nail for some sense to come to the plate.

Is in any wonder I’m feeling testy.

Passing and Failing 4-5 year olds, by Jennie Harper

Year 1 Phonics Screening check

Background

In England, the government introduced the Year 1 Phonics screening test in June last year.

• It is an unseen paper, it is administered by the class teacher individually.

• The children have to read 40 words, 20 of which are non words. Last year’s pass mark was 32.

• The results are put on Raise Online and are available to the LEA and Ofsted alongside the KS1 and KS2 SATs results. Poor results can trigger an Ofsted.

• In the pilot 34% of children passed.

These words especially on part 2 of the test are at the level of difficulty you would find in a level 2 reading book. However, Year 2 children who score a Level 2 in the SATs reading test are not expected to read these words out of context.

pass failIf they pass they get just that, a pass, whether by 1 word or by being completely correct. Similarly if they are one word under they get the word fail and that’s it. No level, no support to make further progress just that one word fail.

This is not a reading test, it is a test of decoding. It is not about confidence as a reader, about fluency or comprehension. All the strategies that you use as a fluent reader are not being tested.

All children have to do this test. And if they fail it the first time they get to repeat it in year 2 – double the humiliation because then they will have had a year of stressed parents and probably teachers too trying to get them to achieve what just may be impossible.

What we do about phonics.

We do a well known scheme sold by one of the advisors on the test. We used our matched funding and spent £12,000 on resources to start. Now each year most of the English budget will be spent on consumable resources that we will continue to need to buy.

As for the scheme we are using if I say give yourselves a lorry driver….or an elvis…..maybe that would help?

Pros

Some children respond very well to it and they develop decoding skills they may not if we didn’t do it.

The pace is fast and some of the activities are fun.

The children do love the praise and encouragement aspects.

The structure of the scheme shows children the progress they are making.

Our Teacher Aides now feel very involved in the teaching and learning during these sessions.

Cons

We now stream children from the first term in Reception.

Most of our English time is now spent on this as we do it 4 days a week.

The children are assessed every 6 weeks purely on their phonics decoding skills and graded according to that. If they struggle with comprehension they struggle every day as the comprehension skills are assumed to be at a similar level.

The children can also struggle with writing which again is assumed to be at the same level at their decoding skills. In my group I have children who can identify and blend sounds and read many simple words but cannot write cvc words confidently. They are writing streams of letters and feeling failure every day.

The amount of time spent assessing and managing the scheme takes a great deal of my year group leader time.

My experiences with the test.

I spent two full days out of my class doing these tests. Some children coped very well and some enjoyed the 1-1 time with me. Others did not fair so well.

One child told me her mother told her she would be happy if she passed the test and would buy her a present. Her mum would be sad if she failed the test.

I could have told her mum she was going to be sad before her child came into the room and started shaking.

One child spent 10 minutes talking about how much he loved aliens and what he would say to the aliens if he met them before he started the test. He failed. I felt that the test was set up for the children to fail. They went straight in with alien words, not even starting with real words to allow the children to feel success from the start. The ‘real’ words included ‘jazz’ and ‘lords’ which do not appear in many 5 year olds’ reading books, so most children did not recognise them. Even the early stage 1 words were not simple well known words at all.

The advice that came with the tests states that you should say the alien words are the aliens’ names, I would not do that as none of the words started with a capital letter which would make my more able children even more confused.

Oh and yes my more able readers did indeed try to make real words out of the alien words. Strom became storm for most of my children.

We had around a 60% pass rate and we were pleased about that for the children’s sake. We were not observed by our LA who had to monitor a percentage of schools. That is probably a good thing as I passed a couple of children with speech impediments they probably would have made me fail as the advice on SEN is typically vague.

I hated the process of writing the letter that, however we tried to make it sound positive, included the names of 5 and 6 year old children and the word fail.

We then had a meeting with some very confused and upset parents and tried to reassure them that the world had not ended and their children were not stupid.

What next?

This year the 40% of our year 2s that failed will be retaking the test.

Our 6 year 1 classes will be taking the test.

4 new year 1 teachers will be trained on how to carry out the test.

5 year 2 teachers will need to be trained on how to carry out the test.

We will need to have 3 supply teachers in every day for a week plus one day the next week to catch up on those that are absent.

Although we are a classed as a good school, a neighbouring school is about to become an academy, so any weak link…..our results matter….the pressure is on.

We have a bulge class of 30 children 24 of them had never attended school before they joined us in October this year…we have now been told we cannot separate their results… we are vulnerable.

by Jennie Harper, Teacher, UK

Natalie’s Dad Says No: Parental Refusal of State Tests

More and more parents are opting their children out of state-wide testing in the USA.

Well done, Natalie’s dad – I like your style.

test refusal blanked

 

Thank you to Natalie for permission to use this image.

More “consultation”, Parata style – testing Y9/10s

in good faith - Hekia Parata - Inigo MontoyaHekia Parata this morning announced that teachers have been asking for national testing for year 9 and 10 students.

It was reported on Stuff this morning that “Hekia Parata says she has spoken to the profession about a need for a “common assessment picture for years 9 and 10” and, while any model would need to be “fully discussed”, the profession agreed it was needed.”

This came as something of a surprise to many…

You would think that perhaps the union representing high school teachers would at least have been consulted…

“Post-Primary Teachers’ Association president Angela Roberts said she had never made the minister aware that an assessment tool was needed for years 9 and 10” reports Stuff.

Oh.

So not the PPTA, then?

Wait, what about the Secondary Principals’ Association?  I bet they were consulted…

“president Tom Parsons said there was no need for 13 and 14-year-olds to be tested at the moment and, if anything, students were “over-tested”

Hmmm.

So not SPA, either.

Teachers???

Nope, in fact they were all a bit stunned when I asked for feedback this morning.

Principals?

They say they have it covered and assess students plenty, thank you.

So, in summation, this news came as a surprise to teachers, unions, education bloggers, pundits and, well, everyone.  In fact, just who these teachers that have been asking for this testing are, is anybody’s guess.

Over to you, Hekia.

___________________________________________________________

Sources and further reading

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/10541278/Doubts-over-tests-for-years-9-and-10

http://blog.greens.org.nz/2014/09/25/nationals-beige-vision-education-assess-assess-test/

 

Martin Thrupp talks National Standards and RAINs

What did the RAINs project find about National Standards?

A shameful shadow of an education system

The article below is about the saddest thing I have ever read about education, and fits exactly what I saw starting before I left the UK to come to New Zealand.  Sadly, this government is following the UK with this madness, and this horror is now here too.  I am devastated.  This is a shameful shadow of education and in years to come will be reflected on as a period of utter and total disgrace.

Secret Teacher, writes in The Guardian (UK):

speech marks blue bubbleWhen I began teaching I worked in early years. Back then, personal, social and emotional development was factored into every aspect of the curriculum. It was understood that to become a successful learner you needed to develop a love of learning and feel secure in your abilities to overcome challenges.

I remember rejoicing the first time a painfully shy child answered their name in the register and when another proudly taught the class to say hello in their home language. But these normal everyday achievements did not happen by magic; the children only achieved these things because they felt secure in their school environment and the right opportunities were available to them.

Roll on a few years and I recently found myself teaching key stage 1 in a new school rated good, and aiming for outstanding. But in this quest, levels and targets have become more important than anything – more important than the children, it seemed.

One Autumn morning I was summoned to the assistant headteacher’s office for the first round of target setting for the year. I was asked to predict the levels my year 1 class would get in their year 2 Sats. I should mention that 70% of my class arrived in year 1 below the expected reading age, which posed a problem; my literacy levels did not meet the targets and could not be submitted to the borough. Apparently, my predictions were “not ambitious enough” and were up levelled. The new targets were accompanied by a speech making the pressure of these expectations clear.

As a new member of staff, I was interested to see what approach the school would take to ensure the levels were met. Their preferred method was manipulation, making sure no one had access to enough information for a full picture. Parents were held at arm’s length and assistant headteachers were present in all formal meetings to monitor what information was shared and how. If a teacher was seen talking to a parent for too long in the playground, an assistant head would appear and join??????????????????????????????????????? the conversation. Nothing quite says you’re not trusted like being watched constantly.

In one meeting I was horrified to witness just how far they were willing to push the pursuit of targets at the expense of the children. My year group included four children that were in the learning support centre. Although they weren’t taught in mainstream classes, they were included in our all-important levels, which unfortunately meant our “quota” of children not at expected levels had already been accounted for.

One child who came under particular scrutiny had been a “problem” in reception. He fidgeted and struggled to manage his behaviour in certain circumstances. Compared to other children I had taught, he had minor behaviour needs, but he was behind academically. With a little bit of nurturing he was improving – the other children were not being affected by him and he was making academic progress. Even so, I was told to put pressure on his parent to take him elsewhere. At the sight of my horrified expression this softened to nudging them gently. Officially, the reason given was behaviour, but I have no doubt that unofficially levels and the extra time he required were the biggest factors in this decision.

When I didn’t follow orders, meetings began taking place that I was not invited to or informed of. I have no idea what the parent was told, but several secret meetings later they must have got the message and made the decision to move him to another school.

Read the rest here.

Food for Thought:

The comments below the article are food for thought. Below are some of the ones that stood out for me.

“This problem is now worsening due to the pressure being put on us by unrealistic performance management targets. If we don’t get the children to a certain place by the end of the year, we now don’t move up the pay scale. Horrid.”

“You aptly sum up why I, with deep regret, turned my back on headship. Loved the job but the conflict between doing what was morally right and what was demanded politically had moved beyond an uneasy compromise and into the territory of being expected to sell one’s soul.”

” This target driven culture comes directly from the DfE (past and present) and is enforced with an iron fist by Ofsted. If a school fails to meet targets it gets taken over, the head will be sacked as may be many other teachers. The only people willing to become heads and deputies now a days are those who are willing to play this game and whose ambition (and often limited talent) drives them to fiddle figures, bully and coerce others into making often impossible targets.”

“It’s obvious that the education system is broken to varying degrees across the country and in many schools. I have seen the type of behaviour, described by the secret teacher, towards children who ‘won’t make the grade’ happening more and more as the performance management has been directly linked with pay rises or lack of them, and the need for more and more children to make targets that are at best challenging but for many completely impossible. Those teachers who don’t get their quota of children to the grades required are not just not getting pay award but also in danger of the competency procedure. It’s a very very sad and bleak world for those children who for one reason or another cannot/ or will not make the expected grades and gain the results schools need to keep ofsted et al off their backs.”

Final Word

And the last word goes to this commentator, who I think speaks for so many of us when they say “This is just terrible. It’s not what we went into education to do.”

 

 

 

 

PISA: Harvey Goldstein tells Andreas Schleicher he missed the point

Over 100 academics last week wrote to Andreas Schleicher at the OECD asking that PISA tests be halted.  The Guardian, along with many others, ran articles on this – and the Guardian’s article elicited a response from Schleicher, in which he says

Andreas Schleicher“There is nothing that suggests that Pisa, or other educational comparisons, have caused a “shift to short-term fixes” in education policy. On the contrary, by opening up a perspective to a wider range of policy options that arise from international comparisons, Pisa has provided many opportunities for more strategic policy design. It has also created important opportunities for policy-makers and other stakeholders to collaborate across borders. The annual International Summit of the Teaching Profession, where ministers meet with union leaders to discuss ways to raise the status of the teaching profession, is an example. Not least, while it is undoubtedly true that some reforms take time to bear fruit, a number of countries have in fact shown that rapid progress can be made in the short term, eg Poland, Germany and others making observable steady progress every three years…”

A Response

Harvey Goldstein responded to that letter and, as The Guardian didn’t print it, he has given me permission to share it here:

To: Editor, The Guardian
Sir
Andreas Schleicher (letters May 8) claims that, as a result of educational policy changes induced by PISA comparisons, ” a number of countries have in fact shown that rapid progress can be made in the short term”. What he means, of course, is that by concentrating efforts on performing well on the PISA tests these countries have managed to climb up the PISA rankings. This is, however, precisely the point made in the letter to him from a number of academics, including myself, to which he is responding. What we were objecting to was the way in which the relentless cycle of global testing impoverishes educational systems by promoting educational uniformity via concentration on performing well on globally standardised tests.

In fact, as Dr Schleicher well knows but refuses to acknowledge, PISA results in themselves are unable to tell us why particular countries do well or badly, and the results are typically interpreted by policymakers in order to justify their own existing predilections for curriculum reform. As we suggested in our letter, this is a good time for OECD to reflect on its PISA (and similar) programmes by suspending the next round of testing and instituting a global debate that involves all stakeholders.

Sincerely

Harvey Goldstein

 

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Read more on PISA here:

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/category/pisa-programme-for-international-student-assessment-data/

http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/news/my-view-of-the-pisa-scores-diane-ravitchs-blog/

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2013/dec/03/pisa-methodology-education-oecd-student-performance

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6344672

 

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