Monday, 5 February 2018

Schoolchildren to be given psychological tests

PISA will test non-cognitive skills

[Ben Williamson `Code Acts in Education`]

"In recent years, the OECD’s PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) and PIAAC (Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) tests have been the subject of extensive debate and research. New tests, such as the PISA-based Test for Schools to help schools compare themselves to international standards, as well as the expansion of its tests to include factors like problem-solving and well-being, have become available as the OECD has gradually extended its logic of measurement and comparison into policymaking systems globally..."

"Organisations including the global education business Pearson and the Nudge Unit have produced research summaries and guidance on developing SELS. The core idea behind many social-emotional learning and skills approaches is that the ‘non-cognitive’ aspects of learning are fundamentally linked to academic progress and to a range of social and economic outcomes, such as productivity, labour market behaviours and overall well-being."

"Moreover, many advocates maintain, SELS are malleable and can be improved through direct teaching intervention..."

"Terms used for SELS including ‘character,’ ‘growth mindset,’ ‘grit,’ ‘resilience,’ and other ‘non-cognitive’ or ‘non-academic’ ‘personal qualities’ are often used interchangeably and gain traction with different academic, practitioner and policymaking communities..."

"The data production expectations on schools, students and their families are, as the list demonstrates, extensive and extend well beyond the normal jurisdiction of the education sector into the extraction of information about homes, family relationships and parenting practices."

"The direct assessment will be delivered online using a centralized software platform for assessment of children’s SE skills. Notably, the OECD claims it will use log file data obtained during the test as additional indicators of SE skills."

"Log file information collected during computer-based international assessments has been described by Bryan Maddox as ‘process data’ collected about such things as response times and key strokes, which can be studied with ‘micro-analytic precision’ in the analysis of larger-scale assessment data..."

"This project exemplifies a form of stealth assessment whereby students are being assessed on criteria they know nothing about, and which rely on micro-analytics of their gestures across interfaces and keyboards..."

SELS: an investment opportunity

"Beyond the presumed scientific objectivity of personality testing, interest in SELS among government departments and policymakers is also due at least in part to the economic arguments made by its advocates."

"In the US, SELS are a lucrative investment opportunity under the banner of ‘impact investing.’ These ‘pay for success’ schemes allow investment banks and wealthy philanthropies to invest in educational services and programs and then collect public money with additional interest as profits if they meet agreed outcomes..."

For a discussion on `grit` and `growth mindsets`:

David Denby (June 21, 2016). The limits of "grit". The New Yorker culture desk blog

David Didau (July 10, 2014). Grit and growth: who’s to blame for low achievement? blog

David Didau (October 24, 2015). Is growth mindset pseudoscience? blog


Here is an extract from Jane Robbins` testimony to the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce which covers a similar topic.

January 30, 2018

"The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking was created to pursue a laudable goal: To improve analysis of the effectiveness of federal programs. We all certainly agree that public policy should be based on evidence, on facts, not on opinion or dogma. So unbiased scientific research, for example, is vital for policymaking."

"But the problem arises when the subjects of the research and analysis are human beings. Each American citizen is endowed with personal dignity and autonomy and therefore is entitled to respect and deference when it comes to his or her own personal data. The idea that the government should be able to vacuum up mountains of personal data and employ it for whatever purposes it deems useful – without the citizen’s consent, or in many cases even his knowledge – conflicts deeply with this truth about the dignity of persons."

"Bear in mind that the analyses contemplated by the Commission go even further than merely sharing discrete data points among agencies. They involve creating new information about individuals, via matching data, drawing conclusions, and making predictions about those individuals. So in essence the government would have information about a citizen that even he or she doesn’t have."

"Our founding principles, which enshrine the consent of the governed, dictate that a citizen’s data belongs to him, not to the government..."

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