English schools protest nationwide tests for 11-year-olds, one-fourth skip the test entirely

LONDON (AP) — School test results for 11-year-olds were released Tuesday across England, and one result was certain: A large number of educators and parents consider the tests a waste of time.

The results of the Standard Assessments Tests, or SATs, revived a long-running debate about whether the government's determination to rank schools based on standardized tests does anything to improve education. The test has no relation to SATs in the United States, which are used to get into college.

The Department for Education said 4,005 of 15,515 English primary schools chose to boycott the tests. Some teachers said the shifts in percentages did not reflect students' performance in school.

"The marginal shifts in percentages paint a picture of the vagaries of test questions rather than a change in standards, " said Christine Blower of the National Union of Teachers, which opposes the exams. "Teachers know from their own assessment that a minority of children need intensive support ... they don't need irrelevant tests to tell them that."

Blower said the key problem was that the test results are used to rank schools by their exam scores.

"They cannot provide a true reflection of all that schools do," Blower said.

Standardized tests in primary and high schools stir anxiety for parents and school administrators in England. A drop in scores often provokes accusations that schools are failing, while better scores lead to claims that the tests are becoming too easy.

England's 11-year-olds this year were doing a bit better at mathematics and writing and somewhat worse at reading.

Some 71 percent of students were up to standard for writing, up from 68 percent last year; 81 percent hit the target for English, up from 80 percent. In reading, however, only 84 percent met the standard, down from 86 percent a year ago.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb defended the tests as "a vital staging post in a child's education."

"Proper tests help us identify the great schools, often in disadvantaged areas, which get superb results for all children. We can all learn from the best practice these tests help identify," Gibb said.