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SATs (tests) - one of the wonders of the English educational system. They start in year 2 (age 6/7), and go on year after year, in various guises until the children leave school.
I've never quite worked out why we put so much effort into preparing children for them. Parents buy practice books. Teachers give up their holidays (paid thankfully) to do booster classes. Often children miss out on other (untested - but theoretically just as important) parts of the curriculum in order to get better SATs results.
What a waste of time. If they were really designed to properly measure pupil's performance we should not be allowed to prepare for them apart from the normal education the school offers. Children should not even know they are being tested.
Preparing children for the SATs is just playing the system. It has no benefit to the children at all. It simply raises the number of children achieving level 2 or 5 (the optimum levels at year 2 and year 6) - and therefore increases the school's position in the league tables. In fact, I think that it actually causes harm because it gives the next teacher or the next school a higher starting point than is truly the case. Which either means the children are given inappropriate work, or the receiving teacher/school is under increased and unreal pressure to add value to the next set of results.
It's a target-led cycle that is not helping anyone. Personally, I would like to see it stop.
Please note - this is my opinion only and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any organisation to which I am currently attached.
However, as always, I am prepared to learn - and therefore to change my opinion. So don't just all agree with me. Argue. Make me work for my opinion! :-)
Argue? What’s to argue about? The whole thing is a farce. A child works all through the year, but the level of their ability/knowledge/competence for an entire subject area is established in the space of a few hours under extremely stressful, totally artificial conditions.
I am only asking this because I am unfamiliar with the British system of testing: are the tests timed? In New York state, we are moving to this system of testing. For over 70 years, the state had subject matter tests with a statewide curriculum (one of the first in the US) at the secondary level. The average student could finish these tests in 1 1/2 hours but were given 4 hours to take them. The new tests are timed with 50-75 items to be completed in 60-75 minutes, depending on the test. Currently we have a test in the 4th year, 8th year, and 10th year along with the subject matter tests in the secondary school. Next year the tests will be expanded to the 3rd year, 7th year, and 9th year, and I think the following year all grade levels between the 3rd-11th will have these tests.
My daughter, who is a very reflective thinker, complains that she never has enough time to answer the questions. In addition, she tends to “overthink” the questions and finds a number of ways to answer the same question, depending on how you interpret the meaning of the words. So I question the validity of these tests in really measuring her knowledge.
I wonder why portfolios of work, that would need to meet certain criteria (which could include some standard testing, but perhaps a series so those who are ill or just not up to par on those day it is given) could be more accurately assessed are not used more widely?
I wonder what would happen if we required a standardized exam for all CEO’s or politicians to take in order to keep their position?
Hi Virginia, thanks for the comment.
The tests are timed (at least for the 11 year olds and upwards). I agree that portfolios might be a good way forward. I’m not sure why they’re not more widely used.
I used to have a similar trouble with timed tests as Virginia’s daughter. The nature of the questions in such tests also often make the examinee think twice about an answer and that spells doom for someone who overthinks (he/she won’t have enough time to answer everything). However, if one would think about it, maybe one of the criteria in passing the said test is to make quick (correct) judgments/decisions.