Archive | Assessment RSS feed for this section

Uncertainty Continues to Dog Secondary Examination Reforms

9 Apr

In under a term, schools/academies will be expected to introduce new curricular arrangements in 20 subjects for GCSEs and A and AS levels – a tsunami of educational reforms.   At the time of writing, Ofqual (the Office of Qualifications) has still to approve two-thirds of them – i.e. 104 out of 156 new specifications – in nine subjects at the AS and A Levels and 15 subjects for the GCSE examinations.   The GCSEs include the English Baccalaureate qualifications in the sciences, languages, geography and history.

Continue reading

Writer attacks government plans for the new baseline tests

25 Aug

Mr Michael Morpurgo, the Children’s Laureate from 2003-5, has described the new baseline tests for reception pupils, which will take effect from September 2016, as “completely absurd”.   The reason for its introduction is to assess children’s level of development at the start of their formal education so that their progress can be measured at the age of 11, thus statistically holding schools to account for children’s progress in literacy (reading and writing), cognition (how children understand and act in the world), reasoning and mathematics.   Children are already being assessed at the end of their reception year.  However, the (new) tests will now be used as measures for determining the progress they make six years later.   Schools will be able to choose from a number of approved assessments.  Continue reading

Schools being left in Assessment limbo

13 Apr

In September 2014, the government scrapped the use of levels, which teachers had previously used to assess the progress and achievements of pupils at Key Stage 1 and 2.  The government did so for good reason i.e. to lessen the workload of teachers.  However, parents still expect to know how well their children are doing and the education watchdog, Ofsted, requires schools to demonstrate that the quality of teaching and learning and the educational provision is impacting positively on our young folk.  So, it is now left to schools to determine what assessment system to use when judging pupils’ progress and standards.

The government began a consultation in the Autumn Term 2014 to establish tools to replace levels with something better.  It tested out the views of the professionals on introducing performance descriptors.  See also page 30 of Governors’ Agenda Issue 60.

The consultation closed in December 2014 and the government published the outcome of it.  While there was general agreement that something must replace levels, there were criticisms about the use of the performance descriptors which the government wished to introduce.  Continue reading

Assessment – Performance Descriptors to replace Levels

3 Jan

Michael Gove, former Secretary of State for Education, abolished levelling – the tool schools have been using to determine the standards of pupils and the progress they make.  This was because it was supposed to be too complex and confusing.  Schools now have to decide how best to measure the advancements of their pupils.   On 23 October 2014, the DfE started a consultation on performance descriptors, which its experts aver will be a more effective method for making judgements on pupils’ abilities at the end of Key Stages 1 and 2. The deadline for responses was 18 December 2014.

Should these descriptors be adopted by the government, they will come into effect in 2016.  For the end of each key stage, the government will set the expected standards in reading, writing, mathematics and science.   During the in-between years, schools will be expected to make their own assessment arrangements. Performance descriptors for pupils at the end of Key Stage 1 will be in reading, writing and mathematics.  The government will provide one descriptor for the expected standard in science.   It will set a number of descriptors for English at the end of Key Stage 2 and a single descriptor at this stage for each of the subjects – reading, mathematics and science.   Key Stages 1 and 2 test results will be reported against scaled scores rather than levels.

Continue reading

Details of changes in assessment unfold

24 Apr

(1)       The Early Years

The government announced at the end of March 2014 that it would be introducing tests for four-year-old in 2016.   The baseline assessment will be taken at “the earliest possible point in school”, thought to be the first term of reception when most children are four. Schools will be able to choose from a number of approved assessments.

Proposals to rank pupils by decile – i.e. telling parents where precisely their children were at – the top, middling or bottom 10 per cent — have been dropped following widespread opposition.

If a school uses the baseline tests it will be judged on the progress its pupils make from the age of four to 11. Continue reading

Bar raised for the Key Stage 2 Standard Assessment Tests

2 Jan

Even the more heavyweight papers carried “alarming” headlines of doom and gloom when announcing the Key Stage 2 Standard Assessment Test results.   “More than 700 primaries fail Gove’s tough new test” boomed The Times when lamenting that “hundreds more primary schools have slipped beneath the minimum of test results”.  The actual number is 767.   The Department for Education has threatened that it will impose on those primary schools that have fallen below the floor level “new leadership and governance from academy sponsors”.

And what is the floor level? Well, not only have the goalposts moved on this but also narrowed.  This year, at least 60% of pupils in a school were required to attain level 4 and above in reading, writing and mathematics at the end of Key Stage 2.  Last year, 60% were expected to attain level 4 and above in English (per se) and mathematics.  At the time, a pupil may have attained level 5 in reading but only level 3 in writing – averaging out to level 4. She/he would have been deemed to have met the target required.  Not so this year.

As a consequence, in 2011/12, 521 primary schools were below this threshold, having improved on the picture in 2010/11 when 1,310 failed to do so.  Were the same benchmarks used in 2011/12 as have been deployed this year, 834 would have failed. The press would benefit from reflecting that it depends on one’s perspective when making a judgement about whether the nation’s primary pupils are improving or “going down the pan”.

The actual results were as follows.

%age  achieving level 4 and above in reading, writing and maths %age achieving level 4B and above in reading, writing and maths %age making expected progress

2013

2012

Reading

Writing

Maths

England – all schools

75%

75%

63%

88%

91%

88%

England – state funded schools only

75%

74%

63%

88%

92%

88%

A DfE spokesman told The Times: “The floor standards we introduced were tougher and performance is improving.  Heads, teachers and pupils deserve credit for meeting the challenge head on.”  Then he added the “killer” remark.  “Schools with a long history of underperformance and who are not stepping up to the mark will be taken over by an academy sponsor.   The expertise and strong leadership provided by sponsors is the best way to turn around weak schools and give pupils the best chance of a first-class education.”

There is only one little problem with what the DfE is planning to do.  Several sponsored academies have also fallen below the floor level.   What plans is the government hatching to have these academies also taken over and who will do the job?

UK Students’ progress in the Programme for International Student Assessments [PISA] frozen

1 Jan

(1)     What is PISA?

In December 2013, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published the Programme for International Student Assessment’s (PISA’s) fifth survey based on a battery of tests carried out in 2012.   PISA assesses the competencies of a cross-section of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics, science and problem-solving.  The focus this time was on mathematics.

PISA charts the extent to which 15-year-old students have acquired key knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies. The assessment in the four areas does not just ascertain whether students can reproduce what they have learned but also examines how well they can extrapolate from what they have learned and apply that knowledge in unfamiliar settings, both, in and outside school. This approach reflects the fact that modern societies reward individuals not for what they know, but for what they can do with what they know.

Paper-based tests were used each lasting two hours. In a range of countries and economies, an additional 40 minutes were devoted to the computer-based assessment of mathematics, reading and problem solving.

Test items were a mixture of questions requiring students to construct their own responses and multiple-choice items. The items were organised in groups based on a passage setting out a real-life situation. Altogether, 390 minutes of test items were covered, with different students tackling variously combined problems.

Students answered a background questionnaire, which took 30 minutes to complete, that sought information about themselves, their homes and their schools and learning experiences. Continue reading