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Mind the Gap. Ken Smith Director-General Department of Education & the Arts, Queensland. Curriculum-Assessment. ^. We’re not talking about Monkey Trials…. Types of assessment. Formative Summative Punitive Sedative. Assessment’s appeal to policymakers as an agent of reform….

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mind the gap

Mind the Gap

Ken Smith


Department of Education & the Arts, Queensland

types of assessment
Types of assessment
  • Formative
  • Summative
  • Punitive
  • Sedative

Assessment’s appeal to policymakers as an agent of reform…

  • Tests and assessments are relatively inexpensive…
  • Testing and assessment can be externally mandated…
  • Testing and assessment changes can be rapidly implemented…
  • Results are visible. Test results can be reported to the press… policymakers can reasonably expect increases in scores in the first few years of a program … with or without real improvement
  • (Linn 1994)

Testing’s effects on Policymakers



  • Help policymakers to judge the effectiveness of educational policies
  • Improve policymakers’ ability to monitor school system performance
  • Foster better allocation of state educational resources
  • Provide misleading information that leads policymakers to suboptimum decisions
  • Foster a “blame the victims” spirit among policymakers
  • Encourage a simplistic view of education and its goals

(Stecher 2002)


Getting the balance right

  • Responsiveness to local needs and diversity
  • Pedagogical innovation
  • Professional discretion and educational leadership
  • Ideological neutrality
  • Primacy of curriculum
  • Portability and buying power
  • Communicating expectations and achievement
  • Motivating excellence
  • Intellectual rigour and stretch
  • Alignment of curriculum, assessment and reporting

Less or less

centralised testing

More or more

centralised testing

More testing?


Evaluation and aspiration

…when I went to school in Brisbane it was as if I had missed out on my primary education…

I got straight As at Kowanyama but when I got to Brisbane I was getting Cs and Ds. …

Education should be uplifting, not serve to reinforce lack of self-esteem and the heart wrenching low expectations that my mob suffer from. If we cannot get education right then we are doomed.

– Tania Major,young Aboriginal leader,

speaking to the Prime Minister 2003


Evaluation and aspiration

(OECD average)

PISA: Aspirations and attainment correlate.

(De Bortoli & Cresswell 2004)

the pygmalion effect
The Pygmalion Effect
  • We form certain expectations of people or events.
  • We communicate those expectations

with various cues.

  • People tend to respond to these cues

by adjusting their behaviour to match them.

  • The result is that the original expectation

becomes true.

  • This creates a circle of self-fulfilling prophecies.

1883 – Guess who?

8th place out of 11

Composition: very variable

Grammar: fair

Diligence: …very naughty

7th place out of 10

French: not very good

Weak in geography

Drawing: very elementary

Winston Churchill


Oh bring back higher standards –

the pencil and the cane –

if we want education

then we must have some pain.

Oh, bring us back all the gone days.

Yes, bring back all the past…

let’s put them all in rows again –

so we can see who’s last.

…let’s label all the good ones,

we’ll call them ‘A’s and ‘B’s –

and we’ll parcel up the useless ones

and call them ‘C’s and ‘D’s.

…We’ll even have an ‘E’ lot!

…an ‘F’ or ‘G’ maybe!!

…so they can know they’re useless

…and not as good as me.

(Peter Dixon)


Unintended effects

Assessment systems that are useful monitors lose much of their dependability and credibility for that purpose when high stakes are attached to them.

The unintended negative effects of the high-stakes accountability uses often outweigh the intended positive effects.

(Linn 2001a)


Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.

– E M Forster

(Regurgitation in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the bucket.)



  • The Bloom
  • Taxonomy
  • of Educational Objectives
  • (Cognitive Domain)











Schools in Hackney have been making progress

Hackney's schools worst again

Hackney in London, whose education service is now being run by a trust, is at the bottom of the primary school results tables - again.

Hackney is the worst-performing local education authority - although results in its schools did improve, from an average aggregate score of 197 to 210.


Not everyone loves the King of the Sea…

a 45 minute primary lesson on Flipper,

shared reading of stories of Flipper,

pictures and videos of Flipper,

worksheets and art work on Flipper.

wonderfully orchestrated… wonderfully socially supportive environment…

At the end of lesson, what had the kids gained? Flipper.

Now that’s what I mean by ‘dumbing down’

of the curriculum.

(Allan Luke 1999, 2001)

the queensland curriculum assessment and reporting framework years p 10
The Queensland Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Framework (Years P–10 )
  • a defined essential curriculum
  • curriculum appropriate to local needs
  • standards of achievement in essential curriculum
  • bank of assessment tools linked to essential curriculum and standards
  • comparable assessment against standards at three key points
  • common reporting framework
  • ongoing review and refinement of syllabuses

Rene Magritte:


mind the gap23

Mind the Gap

Ken Smith


Department of Education & the Arts, Queensland