This paper provides a critical commentary on the Green Paper, Assessment for Success in Primary Schools, released on 7 May 1998. It reveals that the arguments advanced in support of compulsory national testing were neither new nor innovative. In fact, New Zealand had experimented with national primary school tests from 1878 to 1937 and had finally abandoned them because there was absolutely no evidence that they had improved the quality of teaching and learning in the nation's classrooms. We conclude that the Green Paper and the subsequent Information for Better Learning policy statement highlighted the then National government's neo-liberal obsession with using national tests not only to measure school 'outputs' and teacher 'effectiveness' but also to exercise greater political surveillance and control over teachers' work in the nation's primary schools. The Labour government's recently announced voluntary primary school literacy and numeracy assessment initiative avoids the pitfalls associated with compulsory national testing.
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