Australian students in Years 3, 5, & and 9 have just spent the week taking the annual NAPLaN tests. With some controversy last year over cheating allegations, there can be no doubt that the label of "high stakes" can now be applied to these tests. It doesn't seem to matter what is said about the fact that a test like this is only a snapshot of student capability - the inclusion of this data on the MySchool website causes a lot of angst amongst students, parents and educators as the media and politicians line up to judge their worth individually and collectively. There are fears that the data will be twisted to tell an unflattering story and one school at least has moved to deny the MySchool site that NAPLaN derived data.
AS MORE than 300,000 NSW students sat the first of three NAPLAN tests yesterday, parents at a small private school in the Blue Mountains staged a boycott to ensure its results will not be reported on the federal government's My School website.
But schools whose principals or teachers encourage children not to sit national literacy and numeracy tests may face disciplinary action in future, the NSW Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, warned.
I also had an interesting conversation with one of my colleagues who had caught a television interview with Linda Darling-Hammond where she was convinced that the education adviser of President Obama’s transition team had said that the US was moving away from high stakes testing. Because I rely on my Google Reader filled with the savviest educators from that part of the world to keep me informed, I was skeptical. I've been reading over the last few years about how intense and how data driven schools have become in America that I was sure that my colleague must have been mistaken. So I went hunting to find out for myself what was being said.
Professor Darling-Hammond said Australia would be wiser to follow the examples of Finland, Korea, Shanghai and Singapore, whose 15-year-olds achieve the best results in numeracy, literacy and science in comparisons with other developed nations.
"The US is taking a U-turn away from test-based accountability,'' said Professor Darling-Hammond. ''We hope not to meet Australia heading in the other direction in seeking policies we have sought to move away from."
From The Australian:
Professor Darling-Hammond said Australia's national literacy and numeracy tests, NAPLAN, were not "intellectually ambitious" but "bubble"and provided only limited information about students' capabilities.
And The Age:
Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor of Education at Stanford University, said the perception of improved results in New York was created after performance standards were lowered. Once standards were readjusted, results "crashed".
Professor Darling-Hammond, who advised US President Barrack Obama on education during his presidential campaign, and who was reportedly among candidates for the position of education secretary in the Obama administration, will address educators in Sydney tonight, warning Australia against repeating the same mistakes the US has made.
She says NAPLAN-style testing has failed in America. Standardised tests in the US have been criticised for narrowing the school curriculum to reading and maths and multiple choice formats. Punitive measures had resulted in teachers "teaching to the test" to improve results, which determined whether schools and teachers would receive bonus payments. Judged by student results, many of the best teachers fled the underperforming schools that most needed them.
So, my colleague was right about what Darling-Hammond was saying. But what I'm curious about is the statement that the US is "taking a U-turn". Is that true or just wistful thinking on her part?