28 SES 13 B JS, Globalizing Test-Based Accountabilities in Education: Policy transfer and re-contextualization dynamics Part 2: Perspectives from Europe
Joint Symposium NW 23 and NW 28 contined from 28 SES 12 C JS
In recent decades, school test-based accountability; the use of standardised test data to assess and ultimately improve education quality by making various stakeholders responsible for results, has become a key feature of school systems worldwide (UNESCO 2017; Verger & Parcerisa 2017). Whilst the Netherlands is not an exception to this, what is particularly interesting is the evolving nature of testing in the country. Not only has the last decade seen more testing in schools; with a standardised numeracy test introduced at secondary level and a widespread uptake of biannual tests for student monitoring purposes (Scheerens 2013; Schildkamp et al 2009), it has also seen a significant shift in the function of tests that have been part of the school system for decades, the primary ‘end test’ in particular (Scheerens 2017). This paper aims to track these developments - highlighting the changing nature of testing in Dutch schools - and seeks to understand why these changes have occurred. Data is based on an analysis of key policy documents and twenty-three expert interviews with ministry officials, advisory councils, the school inspectorate, test developers, academics, and teacher, student, and parent organisations. These interviews were conducted between October 2017 and February 2018. Findings show that over recent years, testing has taken a much more central position in Dutch schools. Not only has it become used to more regularly and rigorously assess students (especially in core subject areas), but also as an essential tool for assessing schools and holding them to account. As well as this accountability being exercised vertically (largely) through the Inspectorate of Education, horizontal and market-based accountability has also been encouraged, with the publication of test results and other important school-based information on the online platform ‘Windows for Accountability.’ These changes can be largely attributed to two key, interrelated matters. One the one hand, international-influence and discourses of efficiency, quality assurance, and school autonomy, contributed to a dramatic move to a risk-based inspection model, based principally on test-performance data and bolstered by the threat of sanctions. On the other hand, these years witnessed a widespread crisis-in-confidence in the quality of Dutch education. As well as a decline in international rankings, this stemmed from a growing unease over a wave of ‘new learning’ (a trend towards more student-centred, independent and flexible learning), concern over the basic-knowledge of school graduates and student teachers, and a disparaging parliamentary enquiry into the state of Dutch education.
Scheerens, J., Ministry of Education, the Netherlands (2013). Update to the Country Background Report for the Netherlands, paper prepared as part of OECD Review on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes. Scheerens, J., Netherlands, Country Case Study (2017). Paper commissioned for the 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring Report, “Accountability in education: Meeting our commitments”. Schildkamp, K., Visscher, A., & Luyten, H. (2009). The effects of the use of a school self-evaluation instrument. School effectiveness and school improvement, 20(1), 69-88. UNESCO, (2017). Global Education Monitoring Report Summary 2017/8: Accountability in education: Meeting our commitments. Verger, A., & Parcerisa, L. (2017). A Difficult Relationship: Accountability Policies and Teachers. International Evidence and Key Premises For Future Research. In M. Akiba & G. LeTendre (eds.). International Handbook of Teacher Quality and Policy (pp.241-254). New York: Routledge.
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