call for independent grading

Charter schools: higher grades on national tests

Charter middle and secondary schools seem to be giving their students higher grades for the same results on national tests than do the public schools. But the Ministry of Education has rejected the suggestion that someone other than a student’s own teacher grade the tests.

Writing in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter Saturday, Stockholm University economists Björn Tyrefors Hinnerich and Jonas Vlachos say there are such large discrepancies in grading that they think the tests should be graded externally and not by the schools.

Chartered schools are private schools that receive public funding. The controversial reform was introduced twenty years ago by a center-right government. A number of politicians have recently called for a ban on profit-taking in publically funded education.

The conclusions of the two economists support earlier studies by the Swedish Schools Inspectorate which showed that up to 80 percent of the national tests were graded differently when done by the students’ own teachers compared to independent assessors.

The economists compared the results of 32,000 national tests graded by charter schools with the grading of the same tests by independent assessors commissioned by the school inspectorate. Jonas Vlachos tells Swedish Radio News that their findings were not surprising, given that the differences in the national tests were not reflected in the OECD’s  international PISA assessments, which show no difference in results between Swedish public and private schools.

They say the obstensibly better results in national tests can explain why the so-called “free schools” seem to rate higher than the public schools in some surveys.

The president of the Swedish Teachers Union, Metta Fjelkner, tells the TT news agency that she agrees there are problems with the current model for national tests, and she supports the proposal for an independent grading agency. 

But Cecilia Nykvist, president of the Swedish Association of Independent Schools, rejects the criticism. She tells Swedish Radio News that the schools have earlier been accused of padding grades, and that several investigations by the school authorities have not found any significant differences between private and public schools.

However, when asked why the new study reflects differences in grading, Cecilia Nykvist says “it’s hard to answer”. She does say that independent grading, or grading by two teachers, would be preferable.

But the Ministry of Education is against independent grading. State Secretary Bertil Östberg tells the TT news agency that setting up a new agency would be too expensive and complicated. He wants more teachers at the same school to grade the exams, and welcomes the school inspectorate's spot checks.

State Secretary Bertil Östberg at the Ministry of Education on setting up a grading agency

It's costly and complicated. But we are positive about having more teachers grade.

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