THere’s the never-ending debate about whether we should test our kids too much or too little. Why can’t we be fluff like the Nordic countries with no tests in primary schools? Ask for something. We need tests to support kids and catch low-quality schools, others say.
This is a constant debate, not only because people have different views on the purpose of education, but also because analysis is difficult, as countries that do not conduct much testing (such as Norway) have limited data on student progress.
But new Norwegian research has found a very clever way around the “no data in a low-testing country” problem. The researchers looked back at data from a randomized control trial originally conducted to evaluate small-group math tutoring, but used it for a very different purpose.
About eighty schools received tuition, and the same number did not, but they all introduced a detailed maths test for seven- to nine-year-olds to measure the impact of the tuition.
Pupils in more than 80 schools who did not receive tuition but received the test were compared to students in all other schools in Norway – neither tested nor tutored – to assess the impact of early mathematics. A test of later math achievement.
So, are tests useful? The answer is yes… but maybe not in the expected way. Generally, testing does not affect later student achievement, but do not conclude that all tests are bad. First, screening helps low performers by ensuring they are noticed. Second, despite fears that tests may stress children, there is no evidence to suggest that. Instead, they improved teaching practice and student perceptions of teacher engagement. So, try great teachers like great students.