STANDARDIZED TESTS VS. TEACHERS ‘GRADES: WHAT ARE THE MOST EQUAL? AN EXPERIENCE FROM CANTON TICINO, SWITZERLAND
University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SWITZERLAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Page: 5036 (abstract only)
Conference name: 8th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 10-12 March, 2014
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:While education is viewed by many as an important channel of social mobility, many scholars argue that schools reproduce rather than challenge social inequality. In the recent decades, policy makers have mobilized multiple policy instruments in an effort to grant that all children receive high quality education. One increasingly popular but controversial strategy relies on external accountability mechanisms, which also include standardized testing (Diamond & Spillane, 2004). Critics argue that these policies will exacerbate inequalities by leading teachers to marginalize low-performing students (Clotfelter & Ladd, 1996; McDill, Natriello, & Pallas, 1986) and by causing the so-called phenomenon of “teaching to test”. Supporters of standardized tests think that external assessments would provide objective information and work against more subjective judgments that contribute to stratification (Coleman, 1997; Muller & Schiller, 2000). If on one side teachers may make distorted evaluations of homework and examinations and their expectations could be influenced by their prejudices, by the student's conformity to their preferred behaviour patterns and by the student's reputation and track placement (Leiter & Brown, 1985), on the other side according to some authors (Parkin, 1979) sociological literature often underestimates the tendency of the most privileged groups to adapt to the system in order to ensure their children those credentials that give access to the best positions. In this case the upper social groups would invest considerable resources in test preparation activities in order to improve their children’s scores and do their utmost, often with success, to place them in a better starting position (Vigdor and Clotfelter 2003; Alon, 2010).
In Ticino the first attempt to produce and administer a standardized test to evaluate mathematical competencies in the fourth class of primary school has been running since 2010. The paper is aimed at presenting this test, in whose elaboration the author was involved, at examining whether there is correspondence between the score obtained in the test and the Math’s grade provided by the teacher and at putting both into relation with the pupils’ sociocultural background in order to see how equally distributed among the various social groups they are.
Keywords: Standardized testing, inequality of educational opportunities, primary effects.