In Britain, Judging the Quality of Tests Through the Ages

By Sean Cavanagh — August 04, 2009 1 min read
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Parents, educators, and politicians spend a lot of time debating whether academic standards have risen or fallen over time. What if there was an online tool that could help the public make those judgments?

That’s what’s being proposed by Great Britain’s Conservative Party. The Tories say they will launch an Internet site of test papers, dating back to the Victorian era, to allow the public to compare and contrast. The site will give a “granular picture of the evolution of British education and exams,” according to a story in the Daily Telegraph.

Whether this idea becomes a reality, or lands in the vast rubbish bin of political stunts, remains to be seen. Anyone who comes across old exam papers in a shoebox in their attic, the story suggests, would be able to upload those materials to the site.

The Tories appear to be arguing that : 1) parents and the public have lost faith in the nation’s system of exit exams, known as the Graduate Certificate of Secondary Education, or GCSE, and that schools are ditching them in favor of “international” assessments; and 2) the ruling British government is treating the content of current exams as “state secrets,” according to the story.

Would an online tool of this sort prove popular in the United States? And would it have any research or policy value, as opposed to simply satisfying our curiosity?

Photo of Churchill courtesy of the Library of Congress

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.