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Exams shape students’ future life chances. It is vital to share our knowledge on how we set and maintain standards

Blog Editor, IOE Digital7 September 2018

Tina Isaacs and Lena Gray. 
As we wind down from a relatively calm examination season – even with the introduction of new examinations this year – some of us continue to mull over the idea of ‘standards’ in examination systems.
What does the term ‘standards’ mean, anyway? It crops up everywhere in the world of assessment. In England, exam boards and Ofqual, which offer general qualifications like GCSEs and A levels, have to try to make sure that grades have the same meaning across subjects, in different years, and even between competing exam boards – a Sisyphean task that is fraught with technical challenges. This is an area in which assessment researchers like us can see our work having real impact, and there are plenty of exciting developments to shape new thinking. One of those developments is the publication on 10 September by the UCL IOE press of a new book called Exam standards: how measures and meanings differ around the world.
Standard setting in national exams is a topic of interest throughout the global assessment community, yet opportunities for information sharing are rare, given the politically sensitive (more…)

How much testing is too much? Is the 2% solution too strong, too weak or just wrong?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital28 October 2015

Chris Husbands
How much is too much? It’s a question we tend to ask when in the proximity of strawberry crèmes, or gin and tonics. One is fine, two could be great, but carry on and it all goes horribly wrong.   On Saturday 24 October, the Obama administration applied what we might call the strawberry crème principle to education testing. In the USA, education is the responsibility of each state, not the federal government – but over the past two decades, the federal government has developed programmes with aspirational titles such as No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and Reach for the Sky (although I made the last one up).
Federal funding for education is tied to states’ agreement to accept accountability through testing. Tests developed rapidly, first in English and mathematics and then in formally non-tested subjects including PE and social studies – sometimes as a way of measuring pupil performance but also, and perhaps equally, as a way of managing teacher evaluation.
Opposition to testing was mounting. On the political right, conservatives argued that rapid development of (more…)