Student Testing: An International Context

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Student Testing: An International Context


  • Developed economies around the world use both large-scale learning assessments (which are written by a sample of students) and standardized tests (which are written by all students of the same grade level) to evaluate the performance of their educational systems.
  • One of the best-known large-scale assessments is the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Canadian policymakers use PISA results to compare student achievement over time and help them determine how educational systems can be improved.
  • According to a survey of principals, about three-quarters of 15-year old students in OECD countries attend schools where mandatory standardized tests are used at least once annually. In Canada the proportion is higher than the average, but lower than in the United States.
  • The significance to students of standardized tests varies. For example, in Ontario, standardized tests administered by the Education Quality and Accountability Office do not affect students’ report card grades in Grades 3 and 6, but may in Grade 9, and students must pass the Grade 10 Literacy Test to graduate from high school.
  • The main uses of standardized tests, according to school principals, are to monitor the school’s progress from year to year, to compare the school’s performance to district or national performance, and to compare the school to other schools.
  • Different assessments serve different purposes. The OECD reports that it is important to use multiple types of student assessments, including teacher-developed tests, teachers’ judgements, long-term projects, and standardized tests.

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