School exam results may affect education policy

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Deputy Education Minister Sharon Dijksma says the CITO scores of primary school pupils will be used to determine their language and arithmetic abilities.

THE HAGUE—The results may lead to adjustments to education policy. There has been much criticism recently that primary school leavers are not proficient enough in language and arithmetic. Dijksma says she regards the scores as a good way of measuring general ability levels.

The annual CITO exam, consisting of 200 multiple-choice questions, partly determines what kind of secondary school each child will attend. Dijksma called the score "an important second opinion"—alongside the advice of the primary school. Around 153,500 Dutch 11 and 12-year olds at 6,211 schools started the test today.

This may be the last time it is held February, since the Deputy Minister agrees with the suggestion of the PO Raad (Primary Education Council) that the test be moved to later in the year. The PO would like to give students more time to prepare for the tests.

Combined with the recommendation of a student's group eight teacher, the CITO test results form an important indicator of what kind of middle school a student will be admitted to.

There’s an ongoing debate about whether or not the CITO is accurate as a guide to what a primary school student winds up studying. The Dutch Parliament has been debating this issue for several years, and most of the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) agrees that the CITO should stay as an appropriate measure of a student’s capabilities.

Minister Dijksma is in favor of giving more weight to a “student follow-up system” than to the Cito results. According to this method, a school tracks the progress of a student each year, and gives its advice on that student’s capabilities to prospective middle schools. Many schools already have the system in place, and use it in combination with the CITO to determine the skill-level of its students.

Many schools use the CITO scores as an advertisement for the quality of their education, and some schools have even prohibited their weakest students from taking the test to artificially raise scores.

Primary schools, middle school and CITO aren’t yet sure when the test dates will be moved up. Chances are that students who take the test in 2010 will still be taking it in February. The aim is to make the test date late enough in the year to give students more time to prepare, but early enough so that the results can still be used for an April middle school admissions deadline.

Radio Netherlands/NRC Handelsblad/Expatica

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