New Testing Regime Will Narrow School Curriculum

A new US report calls into question the new testing regime announced last week by the Federal Minister for Education according to the public education advocacy group, Save Our Schools.

SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, said that a report by the Washington-based Centre on Education Policy shows that national testing and reporting school results narrows the school curriculum.

“Since the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted in 2001 to require more testing and reporting for reading and maths, average class time in US primary schools on reading has increased by 46% and by 37% for maths. Over 60 per cent of school districts increased class time on reading and maths. Time on social studies, science, art and music, gym and recess was cut by an average of 141 minutes a week.

“These findings have direct implications for Australia’s schools with expanded national literacy and numeracy tests to be introduced next year and the intention of the Howard Government and the Labor Opposition to force schools to report their results on the national tests.

“It means that students will no longer receive a broad, balanced curriculum. More testing of reading and numeracy and reporting school results means less history, science, social studies, arts and physical education.

“Even recess and lunch get less time when schools are rated on national tests in reading and numeracy. Some US schools have eliminated recess in order to spend more time on test preparation.

“The Prime Minister and Julie Bishop have been vociferous critics of schools for not devoting enough time to history and geography. Yet, they are implementing a national regime of testing and reporting school results which will encourage schools to devote even less time to these subjects.”

Mr. Cobbold said that it is the combination of national testing and reporting school results that causes schools to narrow the curriculum.

“Both Julie Bishop and the Shadow Minister, Stephen Smith, have said that they will force schools to publish their test results. School league tables will automatically follow. The Federal Government is establishing its own de facto league table through the scheme to reward schools that raise literacy and numeracy results with up to $50,000.

“Save Our Schools does not reject state or national testing but it does reject reporting school results and school league tables. Reporting school results turn national tests into high stakes events whereby schools and students incur collateral damage. Apart from distorting teaching and curriculum, league tables create incentives to cheat and manipulate results, they unfairly humiliate some schools and their students and they exacerbate inequities in education.”

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