Language Education Policy Studies
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       Evaluation as Policy 

If one adopts a naive way of looking at this issue, evaluation is a problem to everyone. Obviously parents are very stressed by evaluations not to speak of their children. Teachers have anxieties about evaluations because, through evaluation, their teaching is judged. School principals have headaches about evaluation because it is so difficult to organize (and reorganize) and their school is being judged and possibly despised and may even be closed because of the results. Now the struggle created by the willingness to market and privatize Education comes to the level of teacher education programs. Suzanne, a high school teacher of French, is very concerned about this situation:


“With No Child Left Behind legislation, scores, results and percentages determine a school’s ability to meet Annual Yearly Progress (AYP), which makes teachers and students alike less sure of themselves and almost to the point of paranoia. Although French is not a “core” subject, I feel pressure to produce results for college placement exams, the Grand Concours national French exam given in the spring, and to prepare students for the rigors of collegiate academics in general.  As a result, I can see that I haven’t allowed my students to have much input about their writing tasks and topics.   Concerned with vocabulary and grammar mastery, I have neglected to let my French students co-construct knowledge with me. This practice must change.”


Suzanne is being convinced that the majority of high school teachers she knows “feel this dreaded and pinching vise of paradox”. Teachers spent a average of 300 hours per year focused on State assessment. 300 hours that could be used for better learning. Evaluation is meant to measure and control learning results but it takes much time that should be devoted to learning and it has perverse effects on learning motivation.


Not all evaluations can be detrimental: interactive and formative assessments are integrated aspects of teaching. Interactive and formative assessments are non-intrusive and useful. Spontaneous assessment is mostly what is necessary for second language acquisition. The large associations in the field of assessment came to understand the crucial role of empowerment evaluation for authentic learning (Fetterman, 2001), for which learners choose their own objectives and build up their evaluation criteria within their zone of proximal development (Lantolf, 2000; Kinginger, 2002). Institutionalized assessment has a political purpose, it is time taken out of learning. 



  • Language_Assessment


  • Fetterman, D. (2001). Foundations of empowerment evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Kinginger, C. (2002). Defining the zone of proximal development in US foreign language education. Applied Linguistics, 23, 240-261.
  • Lantolf, J. P.  (2000). Sociocultural theory and second language learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Osborn, T. A.  (2006). Teaching world languages for social justice. A sourcebook of principles and practices. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Saltman, K. J. (2000). Collateral damage: Corporatizing public schools – A threat to Democracy. Oxford, UK: Rowman & Littlefield.


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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Tochon, F. V. (2013). Evaluation as Policy. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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