What’s the Cost of a Bad Test? Much More than $7 Per Student. Read the full commentary by NCEE’s Jason Dougal

Headlines for February 1–11, 2022

England Targets High-Need Areas to Improve School Standards

England will designate 55 geographical areas with the weakest education results as “Education Investment Areas.” These areas will receive extra funding, some of which will be used for retention payments to encourage teachers to stay in local schools. The 55 regions will also be prioritized locations of new schools where students aged 16 to 18 can study to retake their high-school leaving exams—known as GCSEs—or prepare to take the pre-university A level exams. Additionally, underperforming schools in these areas could become part of academy chains—groups of schools that are funded directly by the Department for Education and independent of local authority control. These initiatives are just one part of a broader strategy unveiled this week to “spread opportunity and prosperity” across the UK detailed in the White Paper Levelling Up. The paper includes 12 goals, one of which is 90 percent of children leaving primary school in England reaching government benchmarks in reading, writing, and math. This would represent a sharp increase compared to 2019 when only 65 percent of students met the benchmark in all three subjects. Read more at iNews.

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Ontario Requires Online Courses for Graduation, Previews Site

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Ontario’s Ministry of Education will require secondary school students to take two online courses to graduate starting next school year. The goal is to support the development of digital literacy and prepare students for success after graduation. As part of this plan, the government unveiled a new site for online learning and previewed courses that will be offered next year. The province has also almost completed its Broadband Modernization Program, aiming to ensure connectivity in all schools before the requirement takes place. Ontario’s Associate Minister of Digital Government said: “Today’s announcement is another step in providing more options for students to access modern online learning in our increasingly ever connected digital world.”  For more, see Ontario News.

Estonia May Untie the Basic School Exam from Graduation

Estonia’s Ministry of Education and Research is proposing to end the requirement that students pass the national basic school exam to graduate. The Ministry would still require students to take the end of 8th grade exam, just not meet a certain score to move on to secondary school. Ülle Matsin, the head of General Education Policy at the Ministry, said that the exam was canceled during the pandemic and that this “exception allowed us to see what it means” in practice not to require students to pass the exam. Many upper secondary schools in Estonia have entrance exams, which students are more focused on than the lower school graduation exams in any case. For more, see Baltic News Network.

Ülle Matsin, head of General Education Policy at Estonia's Ministry of Education
Ülle Matsin, head of General Education Policy at Estonia's Ministry of Education

Poland Focuses Vocational Education on In-Demand Sectors

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Starting next year, Poland’s Ministry of Education and Science will provide increased per pupil subsidies to schools offering training in high-demand professions. The Ministry releases an annual national and regional labor market forecast and a list of the 30 professions expected to be in high demand over the next five years. This year’s list, which was released this week, projected that the construction and manufacturing industries will be among those with the greatest need, including carpenters, electricians, mechatronics operators, and automation technicians. Read more from the Ministry here.

New South Wales to Pilot More Flexible School Schedule

In order to increase flexibility for working parents and create time for tutoring before and after school, New South Wales (NSW) will test out allowing schools to open earlier and close later. NSW’s AUD$720 million (USD $514 million) investment in helping students catch up after pandemic-related school closures allowed schools to introduce before and after school tutoring, sparking interest in rethinking school schedules across the state. Another aim of the initiative is to allow more flexibility for childcare arrangements in order to increase female participation in the workforce. This is one of the recommendations of the Women’s Economic Opportunities Review which was also released this week. The pilot is expected to start in mid-July. Read more about it the Sydney Morning Herald.

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