04 SES 13 B, Student Achievement
Standards-driven accountability is now the norm in public schools in many industrialised countries (e.g. Cabinet Office 2010, Klenowski and Wyatt-Smith 2012). It involves holding schools accountable for the academic attainment of their students and, according to Hursh (2005:609), is driven by ‘a three-fold need toraise educational and economic productivity in an increasingly globalized economy, to decrease educational inequality and to improve the quality and objectivity of school-based assessment’. Arguably the key questions that increased levels of accountability have to answer are not only whether it leads to improved student performance but if it does, who benefits? It is well established that during compulsory education, academic success is predicated on success at the previous educational stage and that young people from less affluent social groups achieve at lower levels throughout schooling (e.g. Gorard et al. 2007, Smith 2012). Therefore the main challenges that face those concerned with both educational justice and school improvement involve unpacking the educational determinants of success (such as effective teaching) from the social and cultural; as well as understanding the ways in which accountability reform might mitigate against prior academic disadvantage. While the physical and academic inclusion of students with SEN in schools and classrooms has steadily increased, their inclusion in standardised assessment and accountability systems has not kept pace (OECD 2007). Indeed, including students with SEND in accountability linked assessments is a contentious matter and three key issues arise: first about whether all students ought to participate, second about the nature and effectiveness of the assessment tools used, and third whether the assessments are in fact relevant and comprehensive for these pupils’ needs.
This paper will consider the relationship between test-based accountability reform and the education of students with special educational needs and disability (SEND), a group who may often be the least academically successful in school. We look in particular at the issues that arise when students with SEND are included in international assessments of student performance. While low stakes for the actual students, these tests are anything but low stakes for policy makers and the architects of national education systems. More specifically this paper has the following aims:
- To consider the relationship between test-based accountability policies and the education of students with SEND.
- To examine the process of inclusion of students with SEND in international comparative assessments of student performance (specifically PISA).
- To investigate SEND students’ experiences of schooling in different PISA nations.
Cabinet Office (2010), The Coalition: Our Programme for Government. London: Cabinet Office. Gorard, S., Adnett, N., May, H., Slack, K., Smith, E. and Thomas, L. (2007) Overcoming the Barriers to Higher Education. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books. Hursh D., (2005): The growth of high‐stakes testing in the USA: accountability, markets and the decline in educational equality, British Educational Research Journal, 31:5, 605-622. Klenowski, V., Wyatt-Smith, C., (2012), The impact of high stakes testing: the Australian story, Assessment in Education, 19:1, 65-79. OECD (2007), Students with Disabilities, Learning Difficulties and Disadvantages: Policies, Statistics and Indicators, Paris: OECD. Smith, E., (2012), Key Issues in Education and Social Justice, London: Sage.
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