The appraisal elephant in the assessment room

One of the most useful things in the recent Assessment Commission report was the clarity with which it set out the three main purposes of assessment:


It’s quite clear that the purposes of day-to-day assessment (which I like to call ‘feedback’) and summative assessment are separate. The formative stuff is about what happens in the classroom: the information the teacher needs, the impact on the pupils. The summative stuff is simply that: a single data point that gives us an indication of outcomes.

When it comes to appraisal, many schools are struggling to work out how to replace the sorts of targets that used to be based on levels and sub-levels. Personally, given the choice, I’d scrap them altogether, but I realise that’s a long way off in most schools. So what in the interim?

Historically, teachers used their on-going assessments in the classroom to fill in things like the APP grids. Then the judgements they made fed into an overall level for each child, and summary data was thus produced, collated, and turned into an outcome on which teachers were judged. And in many cases, teachers would tick or untick as many boxes as it took to make the official judgement match the level they had already decided upon. I know it happened: I’ve seen it done, and I’ve done it plenty.

If we try to use our formative assessments to create a summative judgement against which we can judge teachers, then we have no hope of maintaining that separation of formative from summative. I don’t think that teachers are out to cheat the system in the slightest. Nor do I think that teachers will do anything for a pay rise. But I do think that the judgements made in appraisal meetings weigh heavy on teachers’ minds, and that consciously or otherwise these are likely to affect the accuracy and integrity of teacher assessment data. Not because they want the pay rise, but because they want to be thought of as good teachers.

If we insist on setting data-based targets, then surely it is much clearer and fairer to separate that judgement of the teacher from the teachers’ judgements of pupils. All the time we use teachers’ own assessments as a tool to judge them, we can only expect one to influence the other. If we just have data targets, then lets use a simple baseline and end-of-year test, where teachers know that the expectation is to improve attainment in a key area, but aren’t then expected also to produce the data that proves the impact they’ve had.

Otherwise, no matter how good your assessment system’s design, it’s destined to fail.


6 thoughts on “The appraisal elephant in the assessment room

  1. Jacqueline D 14 October 2015 at 1:39 am Reply

    We stopped giving a data target a few years ago as we felt it meant teachers may feel pressured to inflate their results, particularly once this became tied to pay. We felt that if the data was poor, then that was just a symptom of something that we should have spotted in our ongoing monitoring of books, learning walks, observations and pupil interviews well before then. A more appropriate target would be to address the specific problem that would cause that poor data. When we mentioned this at a recent meeting of our local collaborative of schools, everyone looked as though we said we’d brought back corporal punishment! Glad to see you agree with us on this! As it is, we have had no drop in standards in the last three years and the LA recently recommended pushing for an outstanding grade should Ofsted come along after reviewing our data for last year. Having data outcomes as a teacher’s target rather than a developmental target is as bad as giving a pupil a writing target of 2a or 4 points progress, rather than something specifically designed to improve their writing/reading/maths etc.

    • Michael Tidd 14 October 2015 at 6:32 am Reply

      I couldn’t agree more!

    • Chris D 9 October 2016 at 3:22 pm Reply

      Jacqueline – we’re having this very discsussion in our school at present. Could you let me know which school you work at so that I can use it as an example…? Thanks

  2. cazzypot2013 14 October 2015 at 6:37 am Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  3. Julia 14 October 2015 at 10:38 am Reply

    Having data outcomes as a teacher’s target rather than a developmental target is as bad as giving a pupil a writing target of 2a or 4 points progress, rather than something specifically designed to improve their writing/reading/maths etc.

    I agree very much with this last statement. My role is to train and support teachers leading this process. It is a tricky one as all we should be focussing on is developing our teacher to deliver high quality outstanding teaching for our young people.

  4. Chris Gallagher 15 October 2015 at 9:23 am Reply

    This debate is really overdue by many years. It’s refreshing to see that it’s finally happening.

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