I won’t hide my ire about the delays in getting writing exemplification out to schools. It’s unacceptable to keep delaying the publication of things like that, while bringing forward submission dates – and all the while proclaiming to be clamping down on teacher workload.
Unfortunately, it has reached the point where many of us have so many suspicions about the workings of the department (and its political masters), that we begin to doubt anything that comes out. So let me set a few things straight, as I see them:
It’s right to set the scaled scores after the tests
We’ve long been used to knowing roughly what score will equate to a Level 4, so it seems like trickery to keep the new ‘expected standard’ threshold secret from us this year. But the truth was, the scores did change slightly each year, and were adjusted after the tests were taken. This has always been the case, and while you could argue that it’s open to political interference, it’s also fair to say that it would be very hard to set a fair threshold without seeing how kids actually do on certain questions.
In reality, it would probably be possible for the DfE to estimate a very rough score around which we can expect to see the expected standard fall… but they’d get far more flack for that when the threshold was different in the summer (which it inevitably will be) than by steering well clear.
It’s right that we can’t know the exact scale yet
Once the 100 marker is set, then they’ll need to look at the range of other scores to see where the rest of the scale score falls. If hardly any children score very highly, or very poorly, it’d be no good having said the scale would go from 80-130 to then have almost all children lumped between 90 and 110. And the point of the scaled score is to iron out year-by-year differences. If there is a very hard test one year, then the scaled score might stretch higher than in a year where the challenge was lesser.
The Progress measure is an improvement
Yes, you could argue that going from 100 and KS1 to 100 in KS2 is the same as going from a L2 to a L4, but the key difference is that in the old system, missing the L4 threshold by one mark would mean falling down to one instead of two levels of progress – becoming a ‘drag factor’ on your school’s data. In the new system it will mean falling one point going into the average. I’ve written more about this before.
A negative progress score can be “sufficient”
Just because something is counter-intuitive, doesn’t make it wrong. We’ve all become fairly accustomed to the value-added measures that are based around 100, so it seems strange to be talking in negative numbers, but the effect is just the same. It would be confusing to have scaled scores around 100 and then also progress measures around 100, so why not 0? Positive scores are better than average, negative ones worse than average. And as for “sufficient progress” – imagine if they’d said that everyone had to get positive scores – we’d be back to the old “everyone being better than average” nonsense.
It’s right to move moderation
But completely wrong to remove the professional dialogue that goes with it.
I’m coming to the view that Teacher Assessment needs killing off for accountability purposes, but while it’s still with us, it’s crazy that schools used to be told whether their results would be checked or not before they had to submit them. As with so many things, the timing of making the change, the poor communication of it, and the change to a “scrutiny” rather than moderation are bad decisions that end up overshadowing a reasonable one.
There’s still plenty wrong…
The development of teacher assessment approaches has been a disaster that has undone much of the positive work about removing levels. The constant delays in providing information are a burden. The new coasting measure continues to hit schools in challenging circumstances more harshly than ‘easier’ leafy-suburb schools. The repeated changes to the ARA documents highlight the disorganisation of the whole process.
And don’t even get me started on “interim” anything! The expectations put on schools to design their own assessment systems while the whole machine of government struggles to come up with a basic accountability system, stinks.