Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Assessment - How Would Your School Compare with the World's Best?: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Assessment - How Would Your School Compare with the World's Best?: News

Article excerpt

Institutions in England can see how they fare in global context.

England could become the first country where schools with 15-year-old students can benchmark their achievements against those of the highest- performing nations in the world.

New tests based on the influential Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), which is used to assess the educational performance of entire jurisdictions, are being prepared for the use of individual schools.

The reading, mathematics and science assessments, developed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), are due to be made available in the next academic year. The UK, the US, Spain, Australia and Japan have expressed interest in the Test for Schools initiative.

The exams will have a limited introduction in the US in 2013-14, with 300 schools expected to use them between November and April. But Alejandro Gomez Palma, the OECD analyst managing the project, said that they could be made available to all secondary schools (for children aged 11-18) in England during the same academic year, after a successful pilot that concluded in March (see panel, page 15).

"We might limit it to, say, the first 500 schools for the first round," he said. "But we might not limit it at all."

Schools will have to pay a minimum of Pounds 5,250 to take part. The tests will involve two hours of cognitive questions and a 30-minute questionnaire on students' socio-economic backgrounds and attitudes to learning and their school.

The results will be used to compile lengthy reports on each school, showing how they compare with schools in jurisdictions that are top of the Pisa rankings, such as Shanghai in China. Schools will also be able to see how they measure up to schools with students from similar socio-economic backgrounds, in their own countries and overseas.

England's Department for Education said that it will be up to schools to decide whether they wish to use the tests, but added that it is "supportive" of the scheme.

However, John Bangs, who sits on the trade union advisory committee of the OECD, said that teaching unions were opposed to the tests. They believe that schools in prosperous areas will use them to create rankings and as marketing tools, "undermining the efficacy" of Pisa, he said. …

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