The school system at risk of evaluation fever

It is an appointment now well known: on March 23, as every year, the national education puts its indicators of added value of high schools (IVAL) online. Based on baccalaureate results, the IVALs compare establishments with the same profile to assess their ability to support their students until the exam. These indicators are one of the many thermometers available to national education to measure its own performance. They are public and are very often the subject of “honor rolls” and other awards in the press – sometimes contrary to what national education would like to highlight, since the “raw” rates of success and of mention highlight private high schools.

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The IVALs are symptomatic of the complex relationship that the French school maintains with evaluation. The Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, has made piloting by evaluation a real mantra. One of the assumed objectives is to break the surprise effect of international evaluations, in which France has tended to “rediscover” consistently poor performance. “Breaking the thermometer never lowered the temperature”wrote Jean-Michel Blanquer in his book Let’s build together the school of trust (Odile Jacob, 2018), where he pleaded for an evaluation “engine of progress”.

Standardized tests have thus emerged in CP, CE1 and 6and to measure, among other things, the effects of the class splitting policy, implemented at the start of the five-year term. But Jean-Michel Blanquer has also created a School Evaluation Council, enshrined in the law for a school of trust in 2019, which has just finished evaluating 950 secondary schools, mostly colleges, on subjects as diverse as student well-being, school buildings and teachers’ relations with their superiors. The candidate president, Emmanuel Macron, declared, during the presentation of his program, on March 17, that he wanted to make public these evaluations which will concern, in the long term, all schools and secondary establishments.

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Resistance from teachers

However, the system has had evaluation tools for a long time. Cohort follow-ups have existed since 1973 and standardized tests since 1989. “Publish the results of student assessments, we’ve been talking about it for thirty years, recalls a former rector, who prefers not to give his name. What is new is to do it every year, as is the case today in CP and CE1, and to use it for communication purposes to say that the level is improving. Over such short periods of time, it is of little scientific interest. »

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