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As featured in the Australian, in a school in the US, students are tested each week in maths and reading, and, depending on their grade level, in science and social studies too. In addition they also have an "interim assessment" every six weeks, with tests on the all the material covered in the previous weeks and in the earlier part of the term. By the end of the school year, the tests are long and cover a vast range of material. The tests arm the teachers with information about what the students are learning or struggling with, and allow them to plan intervention when students fall behind, and share techniques that work. They call it data-driven teaching.

My first thought: Poor students! And poor teachers. While pitched as a positive development ("Data-driven decision making" for schools), it can also be interpreted as not trusting teachers' professional judgement anymore: Why are teachers' observations on students' performance in class disregarded as "data"? And shouldn't we be concerned about the time spend on testing rather than learning? If we follow the general argument of "only test data are valid data" for schools, then why not test everyday? Indeed, after every hour?

There is more than enough research, one would think, that demonstrates the potentially disastrous effects of testing on motivation and epistemological cognition. And as we know, whenever there is formal testing, there will be potentially high-stakes decisions. The combination of the two has demonstrable negative effects on the individual, school, and system level. (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksqkY_jgDhk for a summary of the arguments.)

We don't need more of this kind of testing in classrooms. What we need more of in schools is authentic assessment, assessment that serves a pedagogical function, and assessment that is unobtrusive (does not take away time from more meaningful things.) That's what I try to contribute in my own work, see http://www.next-tell.eu.

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Research by the University's Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation (CRLI).
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