There is a fundament dichotomy in the present eleven plus examination. Is the eleven plus trying to measure the potential children or is it a form of an assessment? We all presume that the examination is reliable and valid.
We can check the reliability of a test by looking at a child’s eleven plus results over two different administrations of the test. This could, for example, enable your child to sit the examination twice. If the marks were significantly different for a large number of children then we would be able to infer that the examination was not reliable. If the marks of only a few children were widely poles apart then we may need to look at what was happening in the lives of those children.
Validity is a different issue as validity is more to do with the theoretical aspect of the eleven plus test. This is where the test is looked at to see if the test is measuring what it is supposed to measure. In other words is the eleven plus actually measuring what it claims to measure. Is it in fact an accurate tool to use when trying to predict future academic success? Is the test truly fair for your child?
This is where the dichotomy of the eleven plus comes in. Measurement of children at the eleven plus stage tries to ensure that the test is reliable – and is valid. An Eleven Plus assessment, however, needs the subjective opinion of an assessor. An example of this is at the appeal stage of the eleven plus where a body of people look at test scores, and hear other evidence, and then decide on offering a place. The appeal body, however, does not have the luxury of having more than one set of actual test results.
Would children suffer by sitting the eleven plus twice? Some would take it in their stride – and others may struggle, It is more likely that a body of parents would shout and scream about undue `double the pressure’ on their children. A double eleven plus examination may, however, be fairer for a number of children. Some parents would win because it gave their children a better chance of passing.
“Horrified” of Tunbridge Wells would, however, write: “It is not fair. We did not do it that way in my day. It never harmed me.”
A major problem with the eleven plus is that teachers, parents and children have to have blind faith in the present system.
The eleven plus is based on the presumption that the skills that are measured are distributed equally among the population. This can only be true if all children had access to the same degree of preparation. The majority of eleven plus children will answer some questions easily, they will struggle on some questions and a number will find the same question `O.K.’
We must surmise that the eleven plus, however, is based on half the total children finding the questions hard with only a small number coping easily. The pass or fail line is drawn half way but finds its place some where up in the top half of the population. Children are not drawn equally into two groups of pass and fail – there is a third group who could probably cope with grammar school if the test was more valid for their needs.
There seems to be a strong case for some new research on the eleven plus to discover exactly what skills need to be acquired in order to pass the eleven plus. In the mean time parents and children have every right to question both reliability and validity.