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Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Fairness of the Eleven Plus

It must be quite easy to add up the scores of the eleven plus test results of all the children and come up with some form of numerical data. You can add, for example, the shoe size of every one in the family and come up with an average shoe size. The problem comes when you look at the extended family – who should you include? Do you leave out Uncle Arthur on grounds that he emigrated to Australia? Should you include Grandfather Wilson who only wears slippers now – and hates wearing shoes?

The eleven plus results only represent the results of the children who took the examination. The results do not take into account children who did not take the examination. The selection results are based on a normal curve – or a bell curve – so if children are missing then the curve is not a true reflection of the whole cohort of children who are eligible to take the examination.

This would not be a serious point if the present selection policy was fair to all children – but, at present, the eleven plus does not pretend to be fair. You pass. You fail. You appeal. There are no second chances.

We have seen technology used in the present Ashes series in Australia. The fifth and final test finishes tonight or tomorrow – depending on how many wickets can be taken in the next few hours.

Cricket has always been based on fairness. Years ago there were the `Gentlemen’ who played the `Players’. A batsman would walk, and be expected to walk, if he was caught or was leg before wicket. The T.V. allows reviews of bowling, batting and fielding decisions and give players the opportunity to call for reviews and have decisions over turned.

There is no opportunity for a review in the eleven plus. There is a pass, a fail and an appeal.

A test result, however, is only valid if it measure what it is supposed to measure. How do we know how valid the eleven plus tests are? We can appeal a test result – but not the reliability and validity of the actual examination.

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