How does testing young children influence educational attainment and well-being?

Think tank: CEPEO

Author(s): Colin Green; Ole Henning Nyhus; Kari Vea Salvanes

January 17, 2023

This report from UK think tank CEPEO looks at whether early testing is a necessary instrument for early targeting or detrimental to child mental health.

Should young children be tested? Proponents view early testing as a necessary instrument for early targeting. Others consider it detrimental to child mental health and with little impact on educational performance. We exploit variation in test-taking in mathematics among primary school children in Norway, traditionally a low-testing environment. We examine both the introduction of difficult mathematics tests and simpler screening tests that were aimed at identifying children in need of assistance. We demonstrate zero effects of testing exposure on later attainment but some benefits from screening tests for low-performing students. There are no negative effects on student welfare, but testing appears to improve aspects of teaching practices, feedback and engagement.