I know that some teachers have ready-made tests and like to use them over and over again. It unquestionably has several advantages – it saves the teacher’s time and it is a reliable tool for comparison, i.e. for measuring how a current group of students differs from the previous years’ groups in terms of knowledge and skills. Or is it reliable?
I remember a colleague I used to work with who was rather exasperated by the fact that students’ knowledge and skills deteriorate from year to year so he couldn’t recycle his tests anymore. In fact, he was rather stubborn and he did recycle his tests for some time until he found out it was a waste of time and energy. His temporary inflexibility resulted in bitter disappointment on his part, as well as the students’ part. He was exasperated, as I said, while his students were frustrated by bad grades. He came up with good excuses, though; he said he’d been teaching the same stuff in the same way for many years so it must be the students’ fault – not his. He concluded: students simply used to be smarter.
I’m not sure whether it’s a good idea to recycle ready-made tests this way and I’m not even sure whether students used to be smarter. Surely, they were different. Everything was different. So, logically, the tests must be different.
I recently read an article which shared a very interesting survey. Some experts compared today’s students with their parents’ generation in terms of skills and knowledge (today’s students got the same questions as their predecessors in 1996). And ‘the parents’ lost the game. To cut it short (and simplify it), the survey showed that today’s kids had done better in maths, Czech, and science. The biggest improvement was, quite understandably, in English as a foreign language. The thing is that in the past, we used to be a communist country with a little possibility of travelling. Generally, there were few technologies, such as the internet, and few reading/listening materials, which would have helped us work on our English outside of the regular English lessons. The teaching methods at school were somewhat prehistoric anyway.
So, I believe that while recycling tests can be useful under certain circumstances, doing it just to prove that knowledge is something static and unchangeable, even from the cross-generation point of view, is not exactly beneficial.