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Good morning and congratulations on your patience over a long winter. This morning you will receive the results of your child’s transfer test. All of the effort, costs, studying, revision and application cumulate in the mark revealed this morning and all children are to be congratulated regardless of the result.
Today is a day of mixed emotions for parents; the elation and relief blended with perhaps some sense of pride and appreciation that your child is soon to be fleetingly venturing out in the journey towards adulthood. Be sure to enjoy the day.
Of course with parents a fresh set of anxieties replace the old and thoughts immediately turn to trying to figure out if the mark or grade (grades remove information) will secure a place in the grammar school of choice. Children will naturally be inquisitive and parents keen to answer with accuracy but it will be months before admission decisions are known. Schools will try to be helpful and reassuring but can guarantee nothing absolutely. Some will engage in an intense effort to market and promote their schools even at the cost of misinformation.
Political parties are in general officially opposed to academic selection (but privately their representatives choose to use transfer tests for their children) Many will not admit to this lest they lose a vote; those supporting compromise will talk of a single test (combining AQE and GL, not just one exam) but this is a problem they are unwilling to accept they are incapable of reconciling. Education is soon likely to be an issue on your doorstep during the current election campaign. In no other aspect of business would a government be allowed to interfere in the operation of private business. Bill Gates had a very clear message to those who would attempt to steal, duplicate or pirate his Microsoft products. The Department of Education seem to have no such reservations when it comes to meddling in transfer tests.
Former DUP First Minister Peter Robinson made much of his determination to deliver a single test. He left office defeated in this aim by the resolve of parents and a dedicated group of principled individuals who will not allow political expediency to destroy parental choice for an education suitable for their individual children.
When Arlene Foster became First Minister and the DUP chose the education ministry for the first time it became clear that the DUP were insistent on delivering on the single test goal to satisfy their partners in the Executive. This attitude is difficult to explain since PACE published two letters in the Ballymena Guardian in 2014 outlining very profound concerns over the use of two different tests for the same purpose. No political party or church has had a single word of response. Peter Weir was recently reminded of the warnings but has failed to adopt a leadership position by recommending the superior instrument; the AQE test.
The BBCNI news this morning via Robbie Meredith, Education correspondent tells listeners (parents of future tests takers) that sources inform him that
“talks are taking place between the two testing organisations to find a common exam”
The BBC are misinformed since a simple matter of fact checking exposes the inconsistency. One test is developed by AQE the other by GL Assessment. GL Assessment have not been involved in any talks with AQE involving a single test. The PPTC who deliver the test in mainly Catholic grammar schools have no ownership of GL Assessment products.
The Irish News (opposed to academic selection) were at least able to get close to a truth that the Education Minister, Peter Weir refuses to accept. Weir announced on November 17, 2016
” a team of educational professionals would seek to simplify the current transfer test process”
Mr Weir should read the Irish News more carefully.
Parents with children transferring to post-primary in 2017-18 should insist that politicians stop interfering in the matter of transfer testing since the Department of Education abandoned their responsibilities nine years ago.
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Tuesday December 3rd 2013 brings the latest OECD PISA results. Before reading a single headline or watching dazzling charts designed to mislead, first read this expose. If you have a reasoned response to Dr Morrison’s essay do not hesitate to get in touch.
Why Michael Gove should follow India’s lead and
detach himself from PISA
Just ahead of the publication of PISA league tables on 3rd December, India has withdrawn from the list of countries which will feature in the tables. The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, on the other hand, seems determined to stick with PISA despite recent concerns about the global league table published in the Times Educational Supplement in July of this year.
Mr Gove’s Department reiterated its support for PISA in a recently aired Radio 4 programme entitled “PISA – Global Education Tables Tested.” That programme illustrated the dangers inherent in critiquing PISA in statistical terms.
Statistical modellers have made life too easy for PISA because they simply accept the PISA interpretation of the construct “ability.” PISA lays claim to measure the relative qualities of education systems around the world, and it is only when the focus moves to measurement that the profound difficulties inherent in Pisa become clear.
Niels Bohr is ranked among the ten greatest physicists of all time. The father of quantum measurement taught that “unambiguous communication” was the hallmark of measurement in physics. Importantly, Bohr traced measurement in quantum mechanics and measurement in psychology to a common source, which he referred to as “subject/object holism.” The physicist cannot have direct experience of the atom, just as the teacher cannot have direct experience of the child’s mind. Both are forced to describe what is beyond direct experience using the language of everyday experience.
Bohr demonstrated that measurement in quantum physics and in psychology share a common inescapable constraint, namely, one cannot communicate unambiguously about measurement in either realm without factoring in the measuring instrument. Wittgenstein’s writings also support this argument.
The lesson we learn from Bohr is that in all psychological measurement, the entity measured cannot be divorced from the measuring instrument. When this central tenet of measurement is broken, nonsense always ensues. The so-called Rasch model, which produces the PISA ranks, offends against this central measurement principle and therefore the ranks it generates are suspect at best.
(The Rasch model is a member of a family of models which all treat what is measured as independent of the measuring tool. Given that these models underpin both computer adaptive testing and the navigation systems of the newly developed MOOCS of higher education, the implications of Bohr’s thinking are clearly far-reaching.)
The following simple illustration will help make Bohr’s point. Suppose Einstein and a GCSE pupil both produce a perfect score on a GCSE paper. Surely to claim that the pupil has the same mathematical ability as Einstein is to communicate ambiguously? However, unambiguous communication can be restored if we simply take account of the measuring instrument and say, “Einstein and the pupil have the same mathematical ability relative to this particular GCSE paper.” Mathematical ability, indeed any ability, is not an intrinsic property of the individual; rather, it’s a joint property of the individual and the measuring instrument.
In short, ability isn’t a property of the person being measured; it’s a property of the interaction of the person with the measuring instrument. One is concerned with the between rather than the within. It’s hard to imagine a more stark contrast. Statistical modelling critiques of PISA, however, have missed this conceptual error entirely.
My bookshelves are groaning with books concerned with the wide-ranging debates around the notion of intelligence. All of these debates dissolve away when one eschews the twin notions that intelligence is either a property of the person or is an ensemble property, for the simple definition that intelligence is a property of the interaction between person and intelligence test. To say “John has an IQ of 104” is to communicate ambiguously. Furthermore, clarification of the nature of measurement in psychology and education has implications for the UK’s approach to school inspection and serves as a challenge for those who reject, out of hand, “teaching to the test.”
when the PISA critique shifts from statistical modelling to measurement, the profound nature of PISA’s error becomes clear.
I trust this essay will be a comfort to those responsible for removing India from PISA, and hope it will prompt a similar decision in the UK.
Dr Hugh Morrison