Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Standardized tests

Hundreds of students at Ulenhof, Doetinchem, The Netherlands are focussing on their national exam. At the very moment candidates of all Dutch secondary schools do exactly the same test.

Reading all those wonderful educational blogs it strikes me that so many teachers are outraged about standardized tests mandated by government.

Just some examples out of many:

J. at A Teacher's Viewpoint complains that

"The first thing that absolutely must be done is to abandon the absurd notion that anything useful is gained from the current misuse of standardized tests."

Joe Bower propounds abolishment of all grading:

"Ironically, it is the skill & drill kinds of learning that standardized test measure that are taking precedent over real learning. This is exactly why parents need to be concerned when they see rising test scores."

In The Netherlands general secondary education is dominated by the national exam with which students conclude their school career. I wouldn't have it otherwise.

The results for the exam are proof of the student's level per subject, regardless the school where he has studied. The results of all students per school give relevant information about the school's efficacy. And I have to accept that the results of my students at the national exam for my subject gauge the quality of my teaching.

It goes without saying that school has to offer more than just a highway towards an exam. The exam result is only one of many features that make a good school. But our national exam definitely makes the teacher accountable for intellectual attainment measured with a yardstick that is not homespun.

I do not trust teachers, nor schools, for that matter, to devise their own goals and have them decide which level is sufficient. I would not entrust myself with such responsibility.

I have to deliver the goods and services that society needs. School is not a playground in which we are given leeway to implement our best intentions for the benefit of other people's children. Education at school is an essential part of the real world.

The real world can be harsh. A student who fluffs his exam has to resit it next year.

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