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Reform a nat'l school-leaving exam: Challenges & cons. of AUT implementing a Euro ref instrament
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Abstract

With the political decision in 2004 to introduce a CEFR based national curriculum for the modern foreign languages, Austria became one of the first European countries to implement the Common European Framework of Reference on a nationwide level. In 2007, this led to a subsequent incumbent reform of the secondary school-leaving examination towards standardized, professionally developed and CEFR-linked language tests. The exam was legally anchored in 2010 and was one of the first compulsory national school-leaving exam system based on the European reference instrument.

This paper will track and evaluate the challenges and consequences of this high-stakes exam reform, largely motivated by a genuine desire to increase fairness, transparency and accountability the Austrian educational system. We will outline how, with varying degrees of success, Politics and politics were reconciled with pragmatic realities and learning goals of communicative competence. By exemplifying areas of conflict between policy ambitions, legal parameters and language test constructs, and intended exam functions, we attempt to evaluate which factors should be considered in a validation framework and echo Chalhoub-Deville’s (2016) demand for a stronger focus on political dimensions and consequences in validation research on accountability-based exam reforms.

Summary

This paper evaluates the challenges and consequences of a high-stakes exam reform in Austria. We exemplify how Politics and politics were reconciled with pragmatic realities and learning goals of communicative competence. We argue for a stronger focus on political dimensions and consequences in validation research on accountability-based exam reforms.

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