It’s 1987/8 we have a blank canvas to create an assessment system to track progress of children, lets look at what we created:
Decision 1: Lets have 8 levels spanning 11 years, from age 6 to age 17, no need to worry about the Reception class. Lets not concern ourselves with the focus of years 10&11 being upon GCE/GCSE.
Decision 2: No one will ever want to verify progress within a level, and besides, the statements are so eloquent they will be treated as a whole.
Brilliant, what could possibly go wrong?
It’s 2013, lets look back at all the sticking plasters, bits of string and elastic bands that have taken place since 1987:
(my chronology is correct here, I began teaching in 1997, some parts are hard to verify with links on Saturday morning when the British Lions are playing)
PROBLEM 0: Managerialism. The need for the management to demonstrate that progress is being monitored and that their role is having impact. The the impact of management is equivalent to the sum of the transactions made by the management of an organisation.
PROBLEM 1: We have designed a system where it is possible for a child to appear to make ZERO progress in two years. Beginning Level 2 at start of year 2, Almost completed level 2 at end of year 3: Almost 2 academic years, same level = no progress.
FIX: Lets create sub-levels: C = emerging into, B = middley, A = mastered most of skills in that level. Let’s not worry that the statements were written to be taken as a whole.
PROBLEM 1.1: How does a level 2A look different from a 3C? a sub-level of progress? How do you know?
FIX: We can write a set of sub level descriptors! Which was done by dedicated teachers and advisors at a local level.
PROBLEM 1.2: Local action leads to national inconsistency, children were no longer assessed against the National Attainment Targets, but against local translations.
PROBLEM 2: We designed a system where the stages of progress do not relate to age.
FIX: If we use sub-levels, then we can approximate satisfactory progress to be 2/3 of a level per year. So – a level takes 1.5 years to complete.
PROBLEM 3: Try doing any statistical analysis of A,B & C for 8 levels over 11 years.
FIX: Let’s turn the sub-levels into numbers, in Plymouth, they tried this:
1C = 1.2 1B=1.5 1A=1.8 2C = 2.2 etc statistical lunacy. 1C to 1B = 0.3, 1B to 1A = 0.3, 1A to 2C = 0.4….leading to very lumpy progress.
PROBLEM 4: Sublevels do not provide sufficient indication of in year progress + PROBLEM 3 needs resolving.
FIX: Let’s convert the A,B,C into numbers and make each sub-level worth 2 points, so that we can show 6 points of progress per level. That means, just so that we are clear that the expected outcome for a KS1 child is 13 points KS2 child is 25 points. OK? 12 points of progress over 4 years, 3 points per year. Great.
PROBLEM 5: Consistency: Since 1987, teachers have found it impossible to be consistent in their judgements, possibly colorised by their compassionate nature, teachers may have been optimistic or charitable in their judgements on the ability of children. It is not reasonable to select people on the basis of their caring nature and then expect objectivity in assessment.
FIX: Assessing Pupil Progress In its purest form, take 6 kids, keep detailed exhaustive portfolios annotated against a number different Assessment Foci and hundreds of objectives. Do so until your eyes bleed. Then extrapolate the levels this process develops to other children in your class of similar ability. nothing new there, a standard managerialist solution: “So long as we do more, we will be better because I can prove the size of my intervention.”
PROBLEM 6: We have forgotten who we assess for. We should not be assessing children to validate our existence in a managerialist culture. We should be assessing children’s progress to reassure families that their children are doing OK. What language do we use for this? Sub-levels? Points of Progress? What does any of this mean? It is the language of managerialism.
We have arrived at a point that is so far removed from that where we began, using language of complexity and mirk. The solution we have is more gaffer tape than original.
Where do we go from here?
Well dear old Mikey Gove has presented us with another opportunity. We have a blank canvas and a new specification:
“Schools will be able to introduce their own approaches to formative assessment, to support pupil attainment and progression. The assessment framework should be built into the school curriculum, so that schools can check what pupils have learned and whether they are on track to meet expectations at the end of the key stage, and so that they can report regularly to parents.”
We need a system which complements the individual school curriculum, providing meaningful information for two audiences, OFSTED & families. We need it by 2016 ( this is actually old news, announced in March 2013). There is nothing in Gove’s announcement about timescales.
Specification of the problem:
We need to demonstrate progress in a statistically robust manner that remains meaningful for families and children.
Question I most heard from parents: ” Is he doing ok for his age?”
So I humbly suggest the following, based on Curriculum 2014: