Posts Tagged ‘Tests’

The Courage of Overcoming Multiple Failures

February 20, 2013


I suspect that this news article is intended to belittle a man who has failed his drivers test 107 times. Be that as it may, I prefer to look at it as an inspiring account of a person with incredible resilience and stamina who is determined to overturn an endless cycle of failures:

Many of us know someone who has struggled to pass their driving test. But spare a thought for the hapless learner who has set a record for failure.

The unnamed 28-year-old, from London, has flunked the car theory test 107 times and is still yet to pass.

They have so far spent £3,317 trying to pass the exam, which costs £31 a time. The test includes a 57-minute multiple choice exam, with a pass mark of 43 out of 50, and a hazard perception test with a pass mark of 44 out of 75.

Once you’ve passed both parts of the theory, there’s still the practical to overcome.

One determined 40-year-old logged a record number of practical driving tests – passing on his 37th attempt. The unnamed man, from Stoke-on-Trent, forked out at least £2,294 trying to pass – which could have paid for a reasonable second-hand car.

The practical test costs £62 to take on a weekday or £75 for a test on an evening, weekend or bank holiday.

An AA Driving School spokesman said: ‘This is an unusually high number of test attempts, but it is important to remember that everyone learns at their own pace. Their determination to pass highlights how important learning to drive is to most people.

‘It is a milestone that many people aspire to achieving because of the freedom and independence it brings.’

Pushy Parents and those Awful Standardised Tests!

May 13, 2012

So it turns out that some parents are so keen to have their children perform at the NAPLAN tests (Australia’s standardised tests) that they have started preparing them as early as kindergarten age. I couldn’t think of anything more dispiriting for a child. It’s bad enough I have to teach my Grade 3’s based on the questions they are bound to encounter during the tests, what could be worse than being subjected to it, up to 5 years in advance?

PUSHY parents are training kindergarten kids for Naplan – four years before they have to sit the controversial literacy and numeracy tests.

About a million students – in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 – will sit this year’s tests over three days next week.

But the pressure to perform is beginning years early, with some parents forcing their four-year-olds to take grade 3-level tests at home.

Dr Les Michel, from the Senior Students Resource Centre, said pre-school parents had joined the soaring demand for practice Naplan tests.

“This year we’ve even been getting kinder parents,” Dr Michel said.

“We would have had dozens, I’d say.”

Dr Michel said kindergarten parents bought the grade 3-level booklets, costing up to $24.95 each.

“They are really pushing their kids,” he said.

School Education Minister Peter Garrett said Naplan practice for pre-schoolers was “highly alarming”.

“It’s putting more pressure on kids at such a young age that they really don’t need, and it’s usurping the role that teachers in the classroom play, which is completely unnecessary,” he said.

However schools are also increasing the pressure, with “teaching for the test” now beginning as early as grade 1.

“We’re aware of it happening, even though people won’t admit it on the record, and why would they?” Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy said.

“It demonstrates the desperation of some schools – their reputation hangs on it.”

Victorian Independent Education Union secretary Deb James said there was an “increased and unwelcome” focus on the tests in schools.

Australian Education Union state president Mary Bluett said: “Kids sitting down and practising tests is not the way to learn.”

Lucky for these pushy parents, I have some suggested exercises for them to set for their children.


To prepare them for the persuasive writing exam, you could set your child some of the following topics:

1. What is more fun, studying language conventions or playing outside with friends?

2. Is doing practice tests with mum and dad considered quality time?

3. Is learning for fun overrated?


To prepare them for the maths paper, I have the following suggested activities:

1. Count up the blisters that you have accrued from all the writing you’ve done and round the number to the nearest ten.

2. If Johnny went to school from 8:00 a.m until 4:00 p.m. and then spent the next 2 hours completing timed reading comprehension exams, how much time does he have to relax?

3. What percentage of pushy parents ends up rearing appreciative kids?

Good luck parents!

Six Tips For a Happy Classroom

January 6, 2012

These valuable tips come from Professor Dylan William, the inspiration behind the BBC2 series ‘The Classroom Experiment’.

* Stop students putting their hands up to ask questions – it’s the same ones doing it all the time. Instead introduce a random method of choosing which pupil answers the question, such as lollipop sticks, and thus engage the whole class.

* Use traffic-light cups in order to assess quickly and easily how much your students understand your lesson. If several desks are displaying a red cup, gather all those students around to help them at the same time.

* Mini-whiteboards, on which the whole class simultaneously writes down the answer to a question, are a quick way of gauging whether the class as a whole is getting your lesson. This method also satisfies the high-achievers who would normally stick their hands up.

* A short burst of physical exercise at the start of the school day will do wonders for students’ alertness and motivation. As any gym addict or jogger will tell you, it’s all about the chemicals released into the brain.

* Ditch the obsession with grades, so that pupils can concentrate instead on the comments that the teacher has written on written classwork.

* Allow students to assess the teachers’ teaching – they are the ones at the sharp end, after all. Letting pupils have a say is empowering and, if handled constructively, is highly enlightening.

I particularly like tip 5. We have become far too obsessed with grades. Comments from the teacher are a much better way of helping children achieve.

What ideas have you put into place that have improved the atmosphere of your classroom?

Do You Remember When Learning Wasn’t About the Test?

November 14, 2011

Students across Australia, and dare I say it worldwide, are sick of constantly being graded.  Gone are the days when a child can learn to love a given subject through observation, experience, discussion and self-evaluation.  Now every learning focus leads to the ultimate test of nerve – a test.

Standardised tests have absolutely ruined the enjoyment of learning.  They reinforce a pecking order which is not beneficial for children.  The constant grading of children make kids who try hard but struggle to perform, feel dumb and useless.  It has taken over classrooms, with teachers too worried about the implications of their class doing badly to teach the curriculum the way it was designed to be taught.  Instead, they are forced to teach to the tests.  This involves months of practice exams.  How inspiring!

Our children deserve better.  They deserve to go to school without having to constantly sit for preparation tests followed by real tests followed by another set of preparation tests etc.  They deserve to have their education untainted by political point scorers.

I love the backflip contained in the first paragraph of a recent editorial in the L.A. Times:

The high-stakes measurement of student progress through annual standardized tests has, in many classrooms, restricted creativity, innovation and individuality. It has emphasized the skills involved in taking multiple-choice tests over those of researching, analyzing, experimenting and writing, the tools that students are more likely to need to be great thinkers, excellent university students and valued employees. But, by pressuring schools to raise achievement, it also has ensured that more students reach high school able to read books more sophisticated than those by Dr. Seuss — which, sad to say, was a major problem a decade ago — and tackle algebra by ninth grade.

Once you have taken the “creativity, innovation and individuality” out of education there is no “but”.  There is no good way of rationalising those vital missing ingredients.

Sure it’s good to have data on the quality of teaching and learning in our classrooms.  Of course, assessments are a staple of education.  But these dry, monotonous, pressure-ridden tests can get too much for kids looking for more enjoyable ways of learning.

If these tests have as I suspect, a negative effect on our students’ enjoyment of learning and self-esteem, is it really worth persevering with?

Teaching to The Blasted Test!

March 29, 2011

It sickens me to see the Government so smug about the upcoming round of National Testing.  In Australia it’s called the NAPLAN (I refer to it as “NAPALM”), and like other National tests around the world it compares student data against the average.  The Government uses the National tests as an easy way out of doing something constructive about Education.

Before I slam these pathetic tests, in the spirit of goodwill, I will acknowledge some advantages of National Testing:

  • It uses these tests as a vehicle for pressurising schools and teachers to lift their game and secure good results for their students.
  • It forces teachers not strictly following the curriculum to adhere to the syllabus
  • It gives parents some real data to consider, rather than the deliberately vague school reporting, which essentially tells parents nothing.
  • It gives parents an opportunity to become more involved in their child’s education.

Now for the disadvantages:

  • It forces teachers to stop what they are doing, and spend weeks if not months practicing for the test.  Everything gets put on hold while the sample test papers get wheeled out.
  • It fills students as young as 8 years-old with anxiety, pressure and insecurity.
  • It causes schools to “encourage” the parents of special needs students to keep their kids at home during the testing week.  This is to ensure that their child doesn’t affect the school’s results.  It also achieves in further marginalising these children who, in many cases, already feel disconnected from their peers.
  • It puts enormous stress on teachers.  This stress has an effect on their quality of teaching.
  • It turns education into an extreme negative at a time when kids still show an interest in learning.

I am currently teaching Grade 5 for the first time.  I am preparing my students for the rigours of NAPLAN (they sat for them 2 year ago).  It means that my emphasis has had to change.  Instead of teaching in an engaging and creative way, I’ve been forced to teach to the tests.  The result has been a succession of comparatively boring and turgid lessons on strategies for answering multiple choice questions, “debugging” sample tests and revising basic skills.  My students are not enjoying these lessons at all!  I fear that when they sit these tests they will sabotage the process by rushing through it as revenge for what its done to their enjoyment of school.

What makes these tests even worse is that they are testing the children at Grade 5 level even though they have just started Grade 5.  Because of that, my students haven’t covered some of the concepts being tested.  Surely, if they wanted to test a Grade 5 class against the Grade 5 benchmarks they should have done it at the end of the school year, not at the beginning!

When are Governments going to stop being so lazy and start taking on a fresh and innovative approach to learning?  Why must my students be subjected to sample tests and other turgid preparatorylessons, instead of conventional, authentic lessons?

Parents have the right to know how  their child is progressing.  At the same time though, their children deserve the right to have a pressure reduced primary education, where the teachers are able to harness their natural curiosities, instead of burden them with weeks of test prepa

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