The Production of Standardized School Assessments: Eclectic Assemblage of Techniques, Rationales and Actors in the Case of Chile

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:33
Oral Presentation
Alejandra FALABELLA, Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Chile
Claudio RAMOS ZINCKE, Department of Sociology, Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Chile
The use of standardized tests has expanded to different countries around the world (Ball, 2008, Verger and Normand, 2015). However, little has been researched about the policy’s foundations and historical trajectory. This paper offers a genealogical analysis of standardized tests in the chilean case and its gradual constitution towards a performative school market (author, 2014, 2015).

The research project attempts to “follow the actor” (Latour, 2005), which means re-building the assessment devise network production. The study covers an extensive documentary analysis from the beginning of the XIX century to our days, added to the review of written and audiovisual press, and over 60 interviews to those who were involved in the policy device production.

The research findings show a rich and complex polycentric network which intermingles multiple components that, although are different in nature and rationale, converge in favor of the constitution of standardized tests and accountability measures. These historical components involve the influence of technocratic curriculum approaches coming from the 50-60s; neoliberal logics introduced during the country’s civic-military dictatorship (70-80s); and ‘school effectiveness theory’ mixed with more recent notions of ‘whole school assessment’ and ‘subjective well-being’ (post-2000s). The production of the device is also interwoven with the scientific and technological advances, as well as with state’s political pragmatism and a tradition of centralized school control since late 19th century. The device network additionally has converged with international organizations’ thinking, such as the World Bank, OECD, Unesco, ETS, IEA, among others.

In short, it would be erroneous to reduce the construction of standardized tests to a single historical fact or rationale. In the case of Chile, the origin and development of the policy device is understood, using Latour (2005), as an eclectic assemblage of ideational, circumstantial, pragmatic, and technical components.