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Descriptions of the legal system for assessment - Norway

The policy guidelines are as mentioned previously that all teaching in Norwegian classrooms must build upon the principle concerning inclusive education for everyone. The principles for pupil assessment must also be viewed in relation to these guidelines.

Pupil assessment in Norway is goal-related. This is to say that assessment both with and without grades keeps to the goals in the curriculum. It is the competence of the pupil in the subject that should be described, either with or without a grade being assigned. Since assessments without marks are used in the primary schools, this is what is being described in the section 'Assessment without marks'. 

Assessment with marks:

Neither assessment with grades nor national exams exist at the primary school level in Norway. 

Assessment without marks:

According to the legal system, all children have the right to assessment. The right to assessment is grounded in the provisions of the Norwegian Education Act. The legal system emphasises that 'An emphasis must be placed on giving good feedback and guidance to the pupils for purposes of promoting learning and development. Arrangements must also be made for the pupils to be able to make good self-assessment'. Assessment without grades serves, in this way, two purposes, both as a tool in giving information about the competency attained (summative assessment) and in order to give feedback that will promote learning (formative assessment). 

It is also mandated by the legal system that the school maintain good contact with home. The contact teachers must have a meeting with the home twice each year. This legally mandated parental meeting is discussed in the assessment chapter in the regulations and must, among other things, be used to inform them of where the pupils stand in relation to the goals in the curricula and concerning how the pupils are working on a daily basis. In addition, the dialogue in these meetings must result in a summation concerning what should be emphasised in the continuing work. There is hence a foundation for saying that the legal system emphasises that the parents must be drawn into the assessment, both the formative as well as the summative. After pupils have attained 12 years of age, they have the right to participate in these meetings. 

Tests supportive of grades and learning

At the lower secondary level there are so-called tests supportive of grades and learning in English, mathematics and Norwegian. These tests are offered to the schools and are intended both as support to the local assessment work as well as for assigning marks. The tests are not used at primary school level. 

Survey tests

Survey tests and diagnostic tests have long been in use at primary and lower secondary levels, particularly at the primary level. They have been used especially in Norwegian and mathematics, with the purpose primarily having been to map out and identify those pupils who do not have a command of certain central concepts in these subjects. With such information the schools will be able to provide better adapted education for pupils who turn out to be positioned under a certain “level of concern”. The surveying of reading skills in Year 2 and Year 7 has been obligatory in recent years; however after the introduction of national tests they are no longer compulsory. The survey tests still exist though as an offer to schools. 

Diagnostic tests

If any special education measures are being planned for a pupil, there can be a need for more precise information concerning the problems that the pupil has. In order to elucidate this information, diagnostic tests are often employed that have been specially developed for such purposes. There are strict quality-related requirements for such tests because the results must provide a basis for individual educational measures. The use of diagnostic tests has been discussed a lot because there have been examples of such material being used erroneously and too much.

When the school itself finds that it does not have adequate competence, the pupil is referred to the local psychological pedagogical service for further elucidation and expert assessment. 

All municipalities must have a psychological pedagogical service that is tasked, among other things, with being a source of expertise when such is required by law as well as supporting the school in competence development and organisational development so that pupils with special educational needs receive an inclusive and adapted educational offer. In those cases where the local psychological pedagogical service does not have adequate competence and experience, the pupil is further referred to the National Support System for Special Needs Education, which will possess competence in elucidation and measures beyond what could be expected to be found with the individual municipality. 

National tests

The Norwegian Parliament has given its consent to the introduction of a national quality assessment system in which national tests are included. The national tests was carried out on a full-scale version in the spring of 2005 in reading, writing, English and mathematics in Year 4, 7 and 10 and at the higher secondary levels. Due to change of government in the autumn of 2005, the national tests were stopped for some time, but will be carried out in reading in Norwegian, reading in English and in mathematics in Year 5 and 8 from autumn 2007. One of the main purposes is to survey the total learning benefits in Norwegian schools. The results from the tests will be used by the national authorities to gain a general picture of the quality in Norwegian schools concerning the areas being tested. 

In the governmental documents concerning the national tests, it is emphasised that the results from the tests must 'contribute to the teacher receiving a better picture of the pupil's skills and basis determining whether their pupils are attaining the learning objectives that have been set'. The tests will also be assessed as 'a good tool for quality assurance of the learning efforts by the individual school and for the individual group of pupils'. (Innst.S.No.268 (2003-2004) Culture for learning p. 21). 

Another important purpose of the national tests is for them to serve as an instrument for formative assessment. This is also emphasised in its treatment in the Storting in the spring of 2005 when it was stated that: 

The primary purpose of the national tests is for the school to be better able to adapt its education to the needs of the individual pupil. The national tests must contribute to the teacher receiving a better picture… The majority also wish to emphasise that the tests will be a survey of fundamental skills in selected areas. 

If the results from such tests are to function in a formative manner and provide guidelines for and strengthen the work at the individual school, it is important that the schools develop a competence in analysis in order to interpret and discuss the results at the school level, thereby ensuring a common understanding of how the school and the teachers should arrange for the continued learning efforts of the pupils. 

There is an explicit political objective to have all pupils participate in these tests, including pupils with special educational needs. Participation in the tests also has a legal basis in the regulations. It is possible however for schools to grant exemptions from participation in the tests for pupils who are receiving special needs education mandated by law. The right to an exemption from assessment is only applicable for those pupils with special needs education where it is clear that the test will not have much to say about the pupil's learning. It is only in these cases that the school can decide to make exemptions, as well as for children with minority languages who have not been in the country long enough to be able to make use of the tests.

The results from national tests must be made public on a school-by-school basis on a national Web site. There are however strict rules for personal privacy and because there are many small schools in Norway, this has the effect that the results from approx. 36 % of the schools will not be made public. This comprises around 10% of the pupils. 

Exams

The exams in the Norwegian primary and lower secondary schools are conducted at the end of Year 10. The written tests in English, mathematics and Norwegian are developed by the Ministry of Education and are the same for the entire country, but they are not standardised. With respect to oral exams, the schools have more freedom when it comes to adapting themes and execution.

Both the survey tests and the diagnostic tests have been developed in order to uncover tangible problems with the individual pupil. The survey tests must reveal whether there are pupils who are situated below what has been set as a critical boundary, for example for reading skills. For pupils for whom it has already been established that there are problems, the diagnostic tests serve to reveal precisely which tangible problems these are. The local psychological pedagogical service often will contribute to this work.

National tests have a somewhat different purpose. The intent is for all pupils to take these tests and for the results to be used in the school's own professional and pedagogical development of assessment practices that promote learning. This applies on all levels, i.e. the teacher can use the results to arrange conditions in a better manner for the individual pupil as well as for the class as a whole. The school management must use the results to implement improvements for their own school and the owner of the school can do the same in relation to all the schools under its sphere of authority. The results can also be used at the national level to implement the requisite improvements where it is documented that such are necessary. 

The exam must be used to measure the final competence of the pupils when they have completed their education. In addition, the exam has a sorting function in that the results are included among the results that are used for admission to continuing education. As mentioned previously, there is no exam at primary school level in Norway.

In other words, it can be said that the different tests that are offered in  primary and lower secondary schools are intended to complement each other. Each test has its function. The contact and informational obligation with respect to the parents is secured through the legally mandated meeting with the parents.

 

Sources:

  • White Paper No. 30 (2003-2004) Culture for learning
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