One of the issues facing heads of subject departments in large schools is the claim by parents and students that some classes were advantaged by their teacher teaching the test or giving a practice test mirroring the real test. A second claim is that some classes were given the test later than others and knew what was being tested as they were told what was on the test by their friends in other classes.
It is almost possible to refute these claims even though they may be unfounded. Early in my career as a head of a subject department these claims raised their “ugly head”. I resolved to make our assessment program as transparent as possible. I did this by setting up the policy you will read below.
In addition, I worked with the school administration to program all classes in each level, once a week, to have teaching periods side by side to reduce the chance of email list of school principals students passing on information about the tests to their friends in later classes. These side by side teaching periods were used for class assessment tasks. The other ploy I imposed was to have the teacher writing the test instrument to create two or three “versions” of the instrument. This still meant that these parallel tests were testing exactly the same skills at the same level.
This was done by:
• Rearranging the order of the questions;
• By reorientating or repositioning diagrams or changing diagrams;
• Using a different coloured paper on which to print the test for each separate group; and
• Calling each different test by the name such as “Test A, Test B, or Test C”.
These alternate tests can also lead to parents and students suggesting that some classes had easier tests than others. However, it is obvious from the other strategies mentioned above that this was not the case. It is important to inform the principal and the deputy principals of these ploys so that they are able to assure parents of the fairness of email list of school principals the assessment program when parents telephone or email to complain.
This approach led to less and less complaints from parents and students although it did create more work initially for the teacher setting the assessment task. The use of a word processor makes the task of creating the different versions a short process in terms of the time needed to create the other versions of the assessment task.
Here is the policy statement that was published in my department staff manual:
Each teacher will do the following:
1. At the beginning of the teaching period, e.g. start of term, teachers will give students a list of Topics and Textbook References supplied either from the Work Program or by the Unit Coordinator.
2. Inform students as early as possible of the date/s for assessment.
3. Explain the format of the assessment, e.g. time, parts, administration, multi-choice and so on.
4. Must not set parallel revision tests, i.e. tests which mirror the actual assessment tests.
5. May set revision tests but these must include questions on all topics taught in the assessment period, not just those in the test. These revision questions should be different from any on the actual paper and must only involve the skills to be tested in that term or teaching period.
6. Problem solving questions in unfamiliar contexts close to or of the same types as in the paper must not be taught or be put in the revision test. Once this is done, that question is no longer a problem solving question for that class/subject but rather it would become recognition of a practiced example.