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date: 28 February 2021

Test-Based Accountability in Englandlocked

  • Diego SantoriDiego SantoriKing's College London

Summary

Since the 1980s, the English education system has been a site of experimentation and reform, with test-driven accountability as the predominant form of quality control. The high-stakes accountability system in England is the result of a complex articulation of standardized assessments, end-of-secondary high-stakes examination, and a consequential inspection system that combines public display of performance data via rating systems and league tables. In primary, Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) in English and math are used to measure pupils’ progress between Year 2 and Year 6, and schools’ effectiveness are determined on the basis of these scores, which are publicly available. In addition, there is a range of ad hoc focused tests or “checks” scattered across primary schooling, such as the Phonics Screening Check (Year 1) and the Multiplication Tables Check (Year 4). The main assessment for KS4 is a tiered exit qualification known as General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSEs), which determine school and college sixth-form options (A levels) and subsequent eligibility for university courses. As data and metrics are increasingly privileged over teacher expertise and professional judgment, schools face tremendous pressure to comply with mounting data and inspection demands, resulting in homogenous and rigid practices. Arguably, recent policy reforms at both ends of compulsory schooling, such as the Reception Baseline Assessment (2020) and Progress 8 (2016), were introduced with the aim of mitigating some of the negative effects that layers of test-based accountability had on teaching and learning. However, a closer look at the internal logic of these reforms reveals further intensification of output-driven pedagogy at the expense of equity, well-being, and justice.

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