Friday, 25 July 2008

Marking maturity

There was an interesting article in the TES today, by Justine Chan. She described how she felt that the English SATs were marking maturity rather than ability.

"A number of children who read 'The Hottest Day' interpreted scenes incorrectly. When Garnet's father enters the room, hot, dusty and irritable, I suspect that more than a few of them identified with a father who would enter a room and be angry enough with the situation to take it out on the family. In the story, Garnet's father is depressed, not angry. So, no marks for the pupils who felt that he was ready to shout at everyone; no marks for a child taking their own life experience into account and misreading the text, simply because they were too young to detach themselves from the passage in the story. I could not see what this had to do with their reading ability, yet it would lose marks.

I began to feel that the nub of the problem was that they actually assess maturity - the ability to read a text and see into the minds of an adult and give an adult response."

Another interesting point she raised was:
"My one day of training with ETS, the American company in charge of the marking, was intense but thorough. At the beginning, we sat in teams of about 10, with an experienced manager, and were asked to complete the reading comprehension booklet ourselves. Our work was checked and the correct responses 'cascaded' to everyone.

Immediately, I noticed that not one of the teachers on my table had achieved full marks. we were a mixture of age and experience: some were retired, some in current practice, but we were all qualified teachers. How could everyone have made mistakes in a paper meant for 11-year-olds?"

A very good question, and one I'd love to know the answer to...

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