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Teacher assessments during compulsory education are as reliable, stable and heritable as standardized test scores

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Kaili Rimfeld, Margherita Malanchini, Laurie J. Hannigan, Philip Dale, Rebecca Allen, Sara A. Hart, Robert Joseph Plomin

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2001

King's Authors


Children in the UK go through rigorous teacher assessments and standardized exams throughout compulsory (elementary and secondary) education, culminating with the GCSE exams (General Certificate of Secondary Education) at the age of 16 and A-level exams (Advanced Certificate of Secondary Education) at the age of 18. These exams are a major tipping point directing young individuals towards different lifelong trajectories. However, little is known about the associations between teacher assessments and exam performance or how well these two measurement approaches predict educational outcomes at the end of compulsory education and beyond.
The current investigation used the UK–representative Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) sample of over 5,000 twin pairs studied longitudinally from childhood to young adulthood (age 7-18). We used teacher assessment and exam performance across development to investigate, using genetically sensitive designs, the associations between teacher assessment and standardized exam scores, as well as teacher assessments’ prediction of exam scores at ages 16 and 18, and university enrollment.
Teacher assessments of achievement are as reliable, stable and heritable (~60%) as test scores at every stage of the educational experience. Teacher and test scores correlate strongly phenotypically (r ~.70) and genetically (genetic correlation ~ .80) both contemporaneously and over time. Earlier exam performance accounts for additional variance in standardized exam results (~10%) at age 16, when controlling for teacher assessments. However, exam performance explains less additional variance in later academic success, ~5% for exam grades at 18, and ~3% for university entry, when controlling for teacher assessments. Teacher assessments also predict additional variance in later exam performance and university enrolment, when controlling for previous exam scores.
Teachers can reliably and validly monitor students’ progress, abilities and inclinations. High-stakes exams may shift educational experience away from learning towards exam performance. For these reasons, we suggest that teacher assessments could replace some, or all, high-stakes exams.

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