Monday, June 13, 2011

The DBE's Annual National Assessments

The Department of Basic Education has started the implementation of the Annual National Assessments.


The biggest advantage of implementing the ANA, is that it supplements the information about education outcomes and quality currently in place in the Education SystemIn the DBE notice to all parents, the purpose of the ANA was explained as follow:

1) Teachers will use the individual results to inform their lessons plans and to give them a clear picture of where each individual child needs more attention, helping to build a more solid foundation for future learning. 2) The ANA will assist the Department to identify where the short comings are and intervene if a particular class or school does not perform to the national levels

It is unlikely that a single short test, administered at the beginning of each school year, will be more effective at providing feedback to teachers about the individual needs of learners, than the current assessments mandated by the DBE’s assessment policies. Continuous assessment policies already require teachers to test learners for this purpose, and if this information has not been used up and ‘til now, it is unlikely that instituting another assessment will make an impact in the school system. Rapid assessments have been shown[1] to be a very cost effective strategy for learner performance, but this requires frequent assessments and teachers with the capacity to analyse and use the results.

Assessments like these have been shown to be a useful accountability tool, depending on how the results are used[2] . It is unclear at this stage how exactly schools and teachers will be held accountable. The results will be shared with parents – which may or may not start a process where parents become more informed and involved in school quality issues. But, these results will have to be interpreted very carefully. A great teacher might produce poor literacy results because the learners in the school only started speaking the language of learning and teaching a year before. This is not a fault of the teacher… yet it might be very tempting to use it as a tool for blame. On the other hand, if the learner results show that there is a problem with a specific teacher or a specific school – How exactly will the DBE intervene? Will they have the support and the necessary information to intervene positively? Is it fair to only target maths and language teachers for “intervention” if poor numeracy and literacy results are found? Certainly, it will not benefit the Education system if the ANAs serve to antagonise the educators.

[1] Yeh, S.S. (2011). The Cost-Effectiveness of 22 Approaches for Raising Student Achievement. Information Age Publishing.
[2] Bruns, B.; Filmer D. and Patrinos, H.A. (2011). Making Schools Work. New Evidence on Accountability Reforms. Washington D.C, World Bank. Accessed online on 13 June 2011 at

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