The ongoing debate about student assessment now has an international dimension. Owing in part to the agenda of the current Secretary of State for Education, comparisons are increasingly made between assessment systems in the UK and other countries. The US system often gets a bad press in the UK because it is so dependent upon the judgement of the individual teacher. Having worked in an California high school and as a moderator/examiner in the UK, I think the US system would have much to commend it — if a proper local system of moderation could be developed. Local assessment, which becomes part of the teaching and learning process, is surely better than the spurious objectivity of a national “external” assessment system which (one hopes) could never be made to work in the US. I want to quote a paragraph from the NATE book text message: the Future of A level English (2005), which emphasises the importance of a community of practice:
So how can curriculum, pedagogy and assessment best be integrated? How might an effective community of practice be realised? Clearly, the way forward is to recognise teachers’ expertise and experience in this area, and, by doing so, to acknowledge the usefulness of assessment in promoting teaching and learning as well as in measuring achievement. Recognition of teachers’ roles in assessment also means giving credibility and status to this activity. Logistically, if for no other reason, this is the only way forward, as the present system is unsustainable, even if it helps protect the Post Office from bankruptcy. Validity and reliability could be achieved through the provision of regional networks (perhaps along the lines of the consortium system already run by the AQA) and through the accreditation of appropriate individuals and institutions.
2 thoughts on “Curriculum and assessment”
I have no problem with local moderation, it would be a sensible first step.
While on the one hand I agree that a national curriculum is going to be impossible in a country that operates like the EU (imagine trying to get everyone in Europe to agree on one!), on the other hand I think it’s a massive shame. The lack of portable qualification means that employers in many areas rely on “kids I know” or “kids that look neat” (which all too often in the US also translates into: “kids that look like me”). Without having nationalised standard access to qualifications it also becomes difficult to fight for one’s entry into college. Some colleges require SATs, or AP classes, or the ACT – yet not every student has the right to be taught the skills tested or even to sit these tests for free in their own school. That, for me, is deeply, deeply rum.
I agree with you — but I would argue that the UK’s “nationalised” assessment system is not as valid and reliable as one would like to think. Essentially, it consists of a teacher in one school parcelling up the exam papers of their students and sending them to be marked by a teacher in another school. (OK, it’s increasingly done on-line – but the principle is the same.) The system was devised 60 years ago for O levels taken by 20% of the population. It is now a mass cottage industry with something of the feel of the Gulag. It is open to manipulation as the GCSE grading scandal showed (and it looks as if we are about to return to normative marking as practised 60 years ago). The whole system needs to be rethought — just as the US system needs to be rethought, from the other end, as it were.