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Descriptions of the legal system for assessment - France

What is said in “common law” and laws concerning pupils with special educational needs about evaluating learning in elementary school?

Common law refers to internal consistency in all the laws and rules concerning the assessment of learning.

Consistency due to precise reference points common to different texts

The national programs  of the year 2002 for elementary school provide for a systematic enumeration of the skills to be acquired in each subject.  The different types of assessment which take place at the end of each sequence but also on the occasion of the major high points that punctuate education, for example the assessment of skills of cycle 2 (beginning of CE2 – pupils of 8-9 years of age). 

In the same spirit the general policy and program law of April 24, 2005  establishes, as a complement to these different reference points, a common foundation of indispensable skills and knowledge that the pupils must acquire.  At the end of each cycle (cycle 1, 2, 3 for elementary school) an assessment will be made of these skills and knowledge.  This assessment will be taken into account in further schooling. 

Consistency linked to explicit objectives and an explicit approach to assessment

The general policy and program law for education provides the framework: “the objective is to establish an obligation of results that benefit all”.  When this law was voted on in the National Assembly, the minister of national education François.Fillon mentioned the objective of 100% of pupils with the necessary qualifications and 80% of all pupils receiving the baccalaureate. In the context thus defined the present challenge is more than ever to take into account pupils who “give up” and the approach to assessment is in effect in keeping with this context. 

If laws stress the need to take into account pupils with difficulties, some texts, like those dealing with elementary school programs, specify that “the strengthening of assessments must not lead to categorise these pupils prematurely, to classify rigidly, to stigmatize, or to relegate them to separate structures”.  On the contrary, the objective is to take a positive view, “to highlight successes and find the strategies needed to respond to the difficulties”. 

Thus, all the texts - the general policy and program law for education, the 2005/2006  circular on the national diagnostic assessment system, or the circular for the beginning of the 2005-2006 school year  - state that assessment must allow regular follow-up of the pupil’s learning and progress.  Moreover assessments must, as a priority, help identify pupils experiencing difficulties in acquiring indispensable knowledge to whom a personalised program of scholastic success can be proposed. 

The circular on the 2005/2006 national diagnostic assessment system very explicitly reasserts this objective.  In addition to the national reference points made possible by the compulsory CE2 assessments, the first objective of these assessments is to allow the observation of skills and to assess each pupil’s successes and difficulties at a specific moment of schooling.  The analysis of the results obtained by the pupils helps implement the pedagogical responses adapted to the specific needs of these pupils.  The next steps are the adaptation of the pupils’ progress, the creation of groups based on needs and/or personalised help. The legislative texts on assessment are injunctive to be sure, but they also mention tools made available to teachers to help them make diagnoses and use the data of assessments.  A bank of assessment assistance tools has been created for this purpose . 

Consistency linked to a strong emphasis placed on assessment

The general policy and program law for the future of education mentions the creation of a High Council of Education, an independent consultative body in charge of making a yearly assessment of the results obtained by the educational system, in particular with respect to the objectives of mastery of the common foundation of knowledge and skills.  It is stipulated moreover, that this body can formulate proposals concerning the methods of assessment of pupils’ knowledge.  The tasks of the teachers are also defined in this law.  Stress is placed on the variety of pupils, the need to evaluate their acquired knowledge and skills, and to guide them on a personalised basis.

The 2005 circular  on assessment recommends a policy with four different and complementary aspects:

  • For the design of tools for help in assessment, voluntary academic teams are to be used.  “National centers of various fields define a list of requirements for multilevel groups in Regional Departments of Education in charge of designing the tools”.  In this way a dynamic process is created concerning the use of assessments, the preparation and use of diagnoses that can be made.
  • In addition to the CE2 (pupils from 8 to 9 years old) and 6ème class (the first year of collège) national compulsory assessments, this circular stresses the preventive aspect that assessments may contain, and more specifically the acquisition of language as of nursery school. In the same spirit it emphasises the link between elementary school and collège and between collège and lycée in all subjects.  Lastly, it mentions the extension of experiments in assessment at the beginning of CE1 (pupils from 7 to 8 years old) for the first quarter of the school year 2005/2006.  Thus, it is clear that the assessment of learning and in particular diagnostic assessment is necessary at every level of schooling in order to identify those points that might constitute obstacles to pupils’ mastering of fundamental skills from nursery school through lycée.
  • This circular stresses the need for encouragement and leadership at the level of the Regional Department of Education (Académie), and more precisely the role that Directors of Regional Departments of Education have to play in implementing assessment practices.

Lastly, mention is made of a necessary training policy, initial training as well as ongoing training. Thus, a certain number of persons are concerned such as Directors of Regional Departments of Education, educational inspectors at every level (Regional Departments of Education, in each département, electoral districts), but also UFM (teacher training institute) directors who must help the trainers to adopt the assessment approach.
We can observe that  general “ordinary law” strongly encourages the different persons involved in primary school to pay special attention to pupils who encounter learning difficulties and to implement a personalised program making use of assessment practices.  This type of encouragement is quite favourable to the development of inclusive schools.

 

Sources: 

  • Bulletin officiel de l’éducation nationale hors série Official bulletin of the Ministry of National Education, special issue n°1 February 14, 2002.
  • Law n°2005-380 of April 23, 2005, JO of April 24, 2005. 
  • Circular n°2005-096 of June 24, 2005, BO n° 25 of June 30, 2005. 
  • Circular n°2005-067 of April 15, 2005, BO n°18 of May 5, 2005. http ://www.banqoutils.education.gouv.fr
  • Circular n°2005-096 of June 24, 2005, BO n° 25 of June 30, 2005
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