Discussions are on-going in many countries around the world about the value of national testing programmes in schools and their impact on learning assessment – for students, for teachers, for schools - in short, for all stakeholders in national education systems.
SLATE is lucky to have had Tamara Rozas from University College London / University of Chile visiting for a month. Rozas is a PhD Candidate at UCL. Her research focuses on the relationship between Chile’s national curriculum assessment system and social justice in Chile.
Intelligent Accountability project
Her visit is part of a cooperative network established between UiB and the University of Chile (the Chilean Centre for studies on Educational Assessment), under the auspices of the Intelligent Accountability project, led by Astrid Tolo, a SLATE-affiliated researcher and Leader of the Department of Education at UiB.
Two representatives from Bergen Municipality came to listen to Rozas’ presentation 2.11.2018 at SLATE.
Tolo writes about the Intelligent Accountability project:
“School leaders typically relate to summative data, collected for accountability purposes. This summative information is «big data» in the sense that it gives abstract information, rather than representing a huge volume of data. It is not the multitude of data that is the issue here, but the gap between the available data and teacher-student interactions. School leaders have typically access to data such as percentages and average numbers. Information at this level is (in itself) of little use for teachers, who need actionable knowledge. They need to know how information can be used in their particular classroom context to teach a specific student. School leaders are expected to act as mediators for process helping teachers to interpret and analyse abstract data and transform it into professional practice. The Intelligent Accountability project involves a case-study showing how different school leaders choose different approaches to this challenge.”
High stakes testing in Chile – impact? challenges?
In the 1980s, when neoliberal reforms began to be implemented in Chile in the context of a dictatorship, the government developed a national test for schools, called SIMCE (Sistema de Medición de la Calidad de la Educación). The idea was that creating a “market-driven” education system would allow “consumers” (parents, stakeholders, …) to make informed decisions about children’s education.
Four subjects are tested: Math, Language (Spanish), Natural, and Social Science. The tests are offered every year in years 4 and 10, and every second year in years 6 and 8. They were designed to assess student learning based on the national curriculum, however, the test results have other uses with repercussions for all stakeholders. Rozas’ research studies some of the far-reaching consequences that have evolved over the lifetime of the testing programme.
Changes in the political context in Chile have been reflected in the national testing programme. In the 1990s, for example, in the context of the return to democracy, the national tests started to be used to identify “problem” schools that could “qualify” for increased government assistance.
However, in the 2000’s, there has been an increasing emphasis on the State controlling quality in the context of a market-driven education. To this end, the national tests are used as a performance-based accountability system where the tests results are being used to “grade” schools. This has had implications for individual schools in terms of inclusion, access to resources etc., and there have even been sanctions as serious as school closures.
National tests & learning assessment
Researchers, teacher organisations, and student movements have denounced the negative effects of the current use of the Chilean national tests, organizing major protests on the streets and a wide-spread campaign called “Alto al SIMCE” (stop to SIMCE) to halt its use.
According to Rozas there are 3 aspects to consider in relation to the origin and to the uses of the national tests in Chile:
Rozas’ research underlines that high stakes testing, such as the way SIMCE is currently being administered in Chile, can result in social justice challenges. She cites some examples of negative impacts on learning:
Her research questions include:
How is the experience of the SIMCE test in school communities oriented by inclusive projects?
To what extent is it possible to develop inclusive projects in the context of high stakes testing?
What are the social justice conceptions around the SIMCE test from the school communities?
What do the school communities understand by socially just assessment?
Rozas hopes to be able to provide evidence-based feedback to the Chilean government from her qualitative work with stakeholder groups at 3 primary schools in Santiago. She would like to see the current government’s rhetoric about inclusiveness reflected in concrete, meaningful initiatives in schools. Read one of the research papers she has co-authored: The consequences of metrics for social justice: tensions, pending issues, and questions