In this post you will find an update on developments since post # 1, followed by a few thoughts and a few questions to consider.
So, here’s the update:
1. Several of our Loreto colleagues have commented on the last post, emailed me, or chatted with me. You can read the comments for yourself at the bottom of that post. There is a strong desire to keep assessment simple, and many seem keen to report attainment in the form of percentage marks.
2. On Monday an officer from OFQUAL gave a presentation to our Heads of Department, and left us under no illusion that there are challenging times ahead. Amongst other things, he reminded us that for a while some GCSEs will be graded 1-9 whilst others are still being graded A*-G, that the ideology behind the change is to get away from the “bulging” of grades in the C-A* region and instead spread attainment evenly across the available grades/numbers. He also confirmed that we will not find out the criteria for awarding these grades until after we have introduced a new system for reporting attainment in KS3. For the same reason, he also agreed that for a while it will be very difficult for anyone to “predict” GCSE attainment. The upshot of all this is that it will actually be very hard to construct an approach to KS3 assessment which dovetails in with KS4 assessment.
3. Meanwhile, it was announced yesterday that plans to award a “decile” ranking to all Y6 students have now been dropped and instead they will be given a scaled score between 80 and 130. Look familiar? I suspect we will find that a score of 100 will represent the average level of (expected?) attainment.
And next, some thoughts and questions:
1. We need a system which incorporates two different types of assessment. We must produce “quantative” data which gives everyone a basic snapshot of progress and ensures that any underachievement is spotted and addressed. At the same time we also need to provide “qualitative” feedback which informs everyone about how further progress can be achieved. Percentage marks could well serve the first of these two aims, but how would we ensure that these were standardised across the school, so that a score of 90% in one subject represented the same level of learning as a score of 90% in another subject? And how would we relate this to expected progress? By setting a target percentage? How would this be arrived at? How often would we award these percentage marks? Would we share them with the pupils, or only ever give pupils qualitative feedback? It might help to consider how our own performance as teachers is rated: would feedback on lesson observations or OFSTED inspections be more welcome if we were told what was good and what needed to improve, but not labelled “good” or “outstanding” in the process – would the feedback be more welcome if such a crude verdict were not shared with us, or not even formed in the first place? Or would we feel disappointed that we could not easily keep track of whether we were improving, and could not look at the achievements of others and start to identify potential sources of guidance and support?
2. If we can’t introduce a system that anticipates an end point (in terms of GCSE attainment) and measures progress in relation to this, should we consider one which instead monitors progress in relation to the starting point (the scaled score between 80 and 130 now due to be awarded at the end of Year 6)? Or do we simply measure attainment in terms of what is expected at that particular time in the pupil’s education?
That’s more than enough to be going on with. Once we clarify our thinking on some of these issues, we will start to make some progress.