guest blogger on Seeta Community

The dilemma of placement tests

Posted on 29/09/2011 by nora

Towards the end of the month, almost two weeks since the beginning of the lessons and it feels like I’ve been working for a whole school year! It’s one of those days when I feel a complete wreck and start asking myself if it’s really worth it. I’m really not proud of my secret thoughts but where is the passionate teacher who’s ready to give her heart and soul to students today? Where has all my energy gone? No, it didn’t vanish into thin air, it’s just the need to act more as a manager of a school today that laid heavy on me.
I had to face the usual dilemma when it comes to students who have attented lessons in another school and wish to enroll in one of my classes.I made the mistake just to mention the term “placement test”. You will find out the reason why…
All of us, as teachers, value the need of this procedure so as to be aware of the student’s exact level of English. Unfortunately, many kids are afraid to undergo this preliminary phase/test before starting lessons in a new school. I can understand them up to a point, it’s not an easy task and sometimes it looks like a formal examination. So, I find students’ stress reasonable. But, on the other hand, I find annoying the fact that most schools do not use placement tests at all.
School managers, in search of more clients for the their school-businesses, accept students based on information about their level of English only by what parents have said, or even worse based on the books they have been taught. As a manager, I see the point of trying to have a standard number of students/clients, to increase the clientele, to run a profitalbe business. But what about the long-term effects? Is it right to accept a student who insists that his/her level of English is the one of A2+ and sooner or later we realise that his/her actual level is A1? Who’s going to benefited from such a mix-up? The student will be placed in a class where he/she will be struggling to keep up with the other students’ level and the school owner will earn the tuition fees only for a year or two. I can assure you of that!
As time goes by, those children realise that there’s something wrong. They are unable to bridge the gap between their own and their classmates’ level. The saddest thing is that they get so disappointed that a large number of them give up in the end.
As a school owner, I’ve decided that students should take a placement test before enrolling to a class. I want to feel safe and be fair and honest to them. I try to persuade them that undergoing this procedure doesn’t mean that I’m trying to doubt or underestimate their level of knowledge. Placemenets tests are a tool which will help both of us to  plan the following years’ syllabus which will meet their needs. Here’s a blog post fourc.ca  by Tyson Seburn with lots of feedback on how other teachers see placement tests and students’ evaluation.
….The student (encouraged by the parent) denied taking the test today. They told me that they’ll have second thoughts on that.
Needless to say that my role as a teacher is of vital importance to me. I’m here to stay!  I strongly beleive that in the near future some of these “clients” will appreciate my efforts. Till then, I’ll keep on fighting to prove that private language schools are more than just business.

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2 Comments

Filed under Guest Blogger

2 responses to “guest blogger on Seeta Community

  1. I can hardly believe any reputable program would simply place students on their word or that of their parents. Crazy. I’m still not a fan of the formal placement test (written + interview), but haven’t found a practical alternative yet.

    Thanks for the mention, Nora. =)

  2. Hi Ty,
    It’s quite common in small communities where the competitiveness is really too hard; owners of private schools are struggling to survive and keep their businesses so… that’s the easy way out 😦
    Thanks for the great feedback I had from “level desciptors” – a rather complicated issue

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