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Sa’ar in Ynet exclusive: Canceling standardized tests 'dangerous'
‘If we stop measuring, comparing, we will put system off course,’ warns former education minister in exclusive Ynet interview following decision of his successor. ‘Alternative…sends dangerous message that achievements are not important. It will be more convenient, comfortable for teachers, students, but they do not go to school to have fun. How will we be able to progress? I fear for our future’
The former education minister spoke out against the dramatic decision of his predecessor to cancel the national standardized tests on Wednesday. In an exclusive interview at Ynet studios, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar stated his disagreement with the decision of Education Minister Shai Piron to freeze the comparative exams in elementary and junior high schools, saying it was “a very dangerous thing to the system.”

 

Sa'ar explained that the decision was wrong, and "expresses a very dangerous attack on measurement in the educational system. I do not believe it is possible in life, in any field, to manage systems, certainly not large systems, without measuring. It is not possible to achieve without measuring data according to standards. This is something even more extreme – the standardized exams were eliminated for next year, but no alternative was created.”

 

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“The alternative is nothing. They say that ‘within the next year, a team will consider an alternative.’ It will be very difficult to get back on track. This is a very dangerous message of laxity, broadcasting that achievements are not important, results are not important, we should not be measured. Basically the alternative of such a measurement is going half way," he said. 

 

The Ministry of Education announced the cancelation of the tests on Monday, after their results were published by order of the High Court. The publication of the results allow parents to compare school metrics for issues such as success in various subjects, the degree of satisfaction of teachers and students, and the level of violence.

 

Education Minister Shai Piron explained, "The message is we've gone crazy, confused. This thing turned into something that drives us from learning, to measuring. We have a problem with the issue of freedom of information. I do not like the delusional reality in which the names of schools and cities are rated every time.’

 

How will we ensure that the weak progress?

Sa'ar, in his first interview on education since the establishment of the new government and his move to the Ministry of the Interior, attacked the decision, "According to this, there will be no tests at all, it would be more convenient," he explained. "First of all it will be more convenient for students – who among us loves tests? It will be more convenient for teachers, and for managers. There will be no examination of changes in educational achievement."

 

"Perhaps it would also be convenient for the Ministry of Education as there will be no way to measure results, but it will be very bad for the future of Israel. The result will be the deterioration of academic achievements. If I was not worried about this, I would not I speak here today," he said.

 

"Measurement has side effects – some good, some negative – we have to deal with the negativity, but to throw out the baby out with the bathwater by way of cancellation tests? And which tests will be canceled?" Sa'ar asked. "The external ones, which allow comparison of a school, its past achievements and its accomplishments today, between different schools? This is a very dangerous thing. How will we know if at a particular school, the level is deteriorating or not? How can we intelligently allocate funds if we do not have such a database, how will we know what the gaps are in the education system?”

 

The question is whether the improvement seen is among the students, or among those who invested in preparing them for the exams?

 

"More than 90% of students take part in the exams," Sa'ar said. "We saw improvement encompassing all age groups, all populations, Arabs and Jews, more established and less established. The test was especially true because we set the theme of measurable goals and improvement – we want to go from here to there. When you use phrases like 'a significant learning experience’ it an amorphous thing."

 

"Experiences during youth are mostly outside of school. You do not go to school to have fun, and education is hard work. If we want to improve the achievements, we must set the target on achievement and excellence. We must see that those who are weak, advance. How will we know they will progress? "

Sa’ar denies that his statements are due to fear in the Likud of Yair Lapid and the Yesh Atid party.

 

"I sat with Shai Piron when he took office and gave him the best advice I could give. I want him to succeed, I want the momentum to continue. And it hurts, very serious people from the system talk to me and extremely regret this direction, they are very afraid of it and say, 'This will return us to the days of sub-par achievement,” Sa'ar said.

 

 

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