The Kent Test is a ‘loaded dice’

C_AeLdeXYAAB6TALeading education researchers, Education Datalab, have described the Kent Test as ‘a loaded dice,’ criticising the arbitrary nature of Kent’s grammar school selection process.

Education Datalab studied four years of 11-plus data obtained by the Kent Education Network  (KEN) through a Freedom of Information request.

Researchers found that a significant proportion of children were likely to be misclassified by the test. Around 8% of those passing the test would have failed if they had dropped a single mark in just one test paper, while one in 10 children judged highly able in primary school SATs tests were not judged suitable for grammar school. The report also showed the impact of tutoring, with disadvantaged pupils obtaining significantly lower test scores, particularly in the reasoning paper.

Joanne Bartley, chair of KEN said, “This research shows that our county’s test is incredibly unreliable, which means our school places are often being divided unfairly. There is not much to tell between many children who fail the Kent Test and many children who pass. If Kent County Council were to publish statistics for the accuracy of the test then parents would be able to judge for themselves whether this test really works.”

The Kent Education Network today sent a letter to Kent County Council based on the findings, asking for four proposals to be considered to ensure an ‘evidence led and transparent’ approach to Kent’s 11-plus test.

The proposals are:

  • KCC should define ‘grammar school standard’ so that the test can be judged for its accuracy in selecting pupils of the described standard.
  • The council should produce an annual report on the Kent Test’s accuracy, created by linking 11-plus scores and GCSE results.
  • The council should monitor and report on test pass rates for groups of pupils with the potential to be disadvantaged by the test, including dyslexic children, children who are not native English speakers, and children in troubled primary schools.
  • Parents should have the right to know the percentage chance of their child being misclassified by the 11-plus.

The Education Datalab researchers explained that tests always misclassify some pupils. The report said: ‘Imagine if, alongside your letter stating whether your child had passed the 11-plus, the assessment companies gave you an additional piece of information – the probability that they have been misclassified by the test. One parent might be told their child had passed, and yet the probability she should have failed was in fact 39%. Another would be told their child has failed, but the probability he should have passed was 47%.’

Bartley said, “The test providers know there is a significant margin for error with their 11-plus test, but parents are never told this fact. There are so many ways the test can be wrong – children may get a higher score if they took the test another day, the pass mark could be set a different way, not to mention the fact that all children develop at different rates.  Many children of broadly similar ability are divided arbitrarily by the test. There is no exact science to the process. To think that less than two hours of multiple choice questions can accurately define children’s future lives is nonsense.”

KEN’s letter claims Kent’s selection test has been, ‘an evidence free zone for decades.’ The campaigners ask for the Education Datalab report to be a catalyst for Kent County Council to improve the test process.

Bartley said, “If our council believe the Kent Test works as they claim it does, then they should provide evidence to prove it.”

The full report by Education Datalab can be found here. 

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