The draft performance descriptors have been published a couple of weeks now, and the consultation is still open for 5 more weeks, but I’m concerned by how few responses there seem to have been.
There is a significant overhaul proposed of the current teacher assessment, that will affect every primary school up and down the country, not to mention millions of students. My personal view is that the performance descriptors are a disaster. But three weeks into the consultation, when I submitted my consultation response I got an email with identifier number 83. Surely more than 83 teachers, schools and organisations across the country must have a view on at least one of the five Yes/No questions asked?
So I urge you to take a look at the consultation document, and then respond to the consultation. There are only 5 main questions, and you don’t even need to answer them all. But please, take a look and do something.
In the interests of openness, and supporting others who feel similarly to me, here are some of the issues I have with the draft descriptors:
- They suffer from the the adverb problem, or similar nuances of language that serve to make judgements vague and unhelpful. Take a look, for example, at these two statements and try to spot the subtle differences. It might be possible to guess which implies the more advanced writer, but could you really quantify it?
Writing demonstrates some features of the given form, as appropriate to audience, purpose and context, arising from discussion of models of writing with similar structure, vocabulary and grammar.
Writing demonstrates features of selected form, as appropriate to audience, purpose
and context, drawn from discussion of models of similar writing and the recording of
ideas from pupils’ own reading.
- As Tim Oates’ video recently clearly explained, one of the problems with levels was a combination of three different meanings: a test score, a “best fit”, and a “just in” meaning. Although this removes the first of these, the other two remain. We have a new threshold issue.
- Another of the problems with levels was the use of the labels for children – its almost inevitable that some (many? almost all?) schools will end up using these labels as part of a tracking system, and re-create another of the problems levels had.
- One of the reasons for getting rid of levels was because it distracted attention from what a child can/cannot do by replacing it with a generic label. This system re-creates those problems.
Generally, these descriptors simply realise our fears of a new system of levels by another name.
Some teachers may be happy with that, and they’re entitled to say so in the consultation, but either way, surely there must be more than 82 other people who care?
(Incidentally – if you do respond, I’d be fascinated to know what identifier number you get – perhaps post it in the comments below?)
For reference, the 5 main questions asked in the consultation are listed here. It won’t be a surprise to know that ‘No’ featured frequently in my response.
1. Do the names of the draft performance descriptors allow teachers and parents to understand the meaning of, and differentiate between, each performance descriptor?
2. Are the performance descriptors spaced effectively across the range of pupils’ performance to support accurate and consistent judgements?
3. In your opinion, are the performance descriptors clear and easy to understand?
4. In your opinion, does the content of the performance descriptors adequately reflect the national curriculum programmes of study?
5. Should any element of the performance descriptors be weighted (i.e. should any element be considered more important or less important than others?).