Changing Our Schools: Linking School Effectiveness and School Improvement

By Louise Stoll; Dean Fink | Go to book overview

EVALUATE WHAT
YOU VALUE

Performance and accountability are watchwords of the 1990s. A common thread to the reform plans of virtually every nation, state or province is that improvement will happen if we just test pupils, and make schools and teachers accountable for the products of schooling. The metaphor of 'product' to describe pupils reflects the market-place and choice considerations which motivate much of this political activity. In Britain, for example, this rationale underpins development of league tables of raw examination results, attendance and truancy figures, and the external inspection system operated by the government's Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED). A cruel irony is that there is very little evidence that external assessments actually improve the quality of education. In fact, there is substantially more evidence of their negative effects on teaching (Haladyna et al. 1991; Smith 1991) and many examples of 'teaching to the test', where test content drives what is taught. None the less, governments have spent millions on such strategies, while cutting proven approaches like staff development.

Why have non-educators determined a narrow range of outcomes on which schools are to be judged? It is too easy to point outside education and say 'they' are misguided or perverse. If there is a problem for educators and researchers, we did it to ourselves. We have never demonstrated to ourselves, let alone anyone else, that schools make a difference to pupils' learning, knowledge, skills and attitudes which will enable them to be successful citizens in the twenty-first century. If most educators are not assessment literate how can we expect our publics to understand the issues that relate to assessment?

Assessment and testing are a high stakes business. We all know from our own school days, what gets measured, or assessed, gets valued. If schools do

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