Scott: Second expert “rubbishes” government’s claims of support for P1 testing policy

After a second leading academic, UCLA’s Professor Popham, branded the Scottish Government’s assertion he was a supporter of P1 testing in Scotland “flat-out incorrect”, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott MSP today demanded the Education Secretary apologise to the educational experts and Parliament.

The Education Secretary claimed on radio, there were “people who emphatically argue for P1 assessments”. After a Scottish Liberal Democrat freedom of information request asked who these people were, the Scottish Government identified the work of world-renowned experts Professor W. James Popham from the University of California and Dylan Wiliam, Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at University College London.

Speaking to the Herald, which has been investigating the claims alongside the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Professor Popham denied support for the controversial policy, saying: “Whether made from ignorance or malevolence, the attribution quotation is flat-out incorrect”. Yesterday Professor Dylan Wiliam described it as a “perverse misrepresentation” of his work and issued a blistering rebuke.

Tavish Scott said:

“The Scottish Government’s claims of academic backing for doomed national testing have now utterly fallen apart.

“After Liberal Democrats challenged John Swinney’s assertion that experts ‘emphatically’ back his policy, the only two people the Scottish Government could name have told him what they really think. Their obliteration of both his policy and claims of support is devastating for the Education Secretary.

“Evidence and expertise should be at the heart of every policy. It is now clearer than ever that the SNP’s damaging national tests have neither.”

The text of the FOI submitted by the Scottish Liberal Democrats can be found below:

Please provide a copy of all the evidence that the Scottish Government has that there are "people who emphatically argue for P1 assessments", as stated by the Cabinet Secretary on 16 August 2018.

The approach to national standardised assessment was developed after extensive engagement with teachers, parents, children and academics. There is a wide ranging support for formative assessment amongst the teaching profession and there is extensive research highlighting the positive benefits of formative assessment. For example, Dylan William, Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at University College London, presents research that shows formative assessment practices have a much greater impact on educational achievement than most other reforms. W. James Popham has authored books, journals and research reports and explains the research supporting formative assessments. We have also drawn evidence from a range of advice and publications, including from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – specifically their publication Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment and Education Policy Outlook 2015.

The use of standardised assessment in Scotland is not new, the SNSAs build on current practice – 29 of the 32 local authorities were already using standardised assessments. This sustained practice over a significant number of years provided early diagnostic information to teachers to inform next steps in learning. The introduction of SNSA, aligned to Curriculum for Excellence and designed specifically for the Scottish educational context, has ensured consistency across Scotland. Extensive engagement with practitioners show that the SNSA is both welcomed and is an upgrade on previous standardised assessments. Working with Education Scotland, case studies are being produced to further support this.

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