To be fair to the DfE…

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.

10 thoughts on “To be fair to the DfE…

  1. cazzypot2013 4 February 2016 at 9:27 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. Mark 4 February 2016 at 10:05 pm Reply

    Couldn’t agree more.

    I think that teacher assessment at KS2 has gone. It doesn’t feature in the original planning for national curriculum assessment, and the word interim is a give away.

    The progress measure is only for a cohort (or presumably a group). The individual pluses and minuses within it are meaningless statistically. As an ex year 6 teacher I like the fact that the overall score is more inclusive of everyone, rather than just the 2a to 5s vs the 3 to 4s.

    I wonder why we’re still assessing writing.

  3. To be fair to the DfE… | carolinemoo 4 February 2016 at 10:14 pm Reply

    […] Source: To be fair to the DfE… […]

  4. carolinemoore2014 4 February 2016 at 10:17 pm Reply

    Such words of wisdom that must express the feelings of 100’s of teachers!

  5. Janet Parnell 5 February 2016 at 6:13 am Reply

    After a moderator training meeting last night we were told KS2 results would be sent to schools in November! So our year 6 pupils would leave still not knowing the outcome, no closure, no time to celebrate all of their hard work as they find their results! And the teachers start another year without having had the opportunity to unpick that year’s tests and maybe tweak and adjust ready for another go. In a year of so much uncertainty this really is the final straw! How much more stress can they pile on? Ja

    • Michael Tidd 5 February 2016 at 6:48 am Reply

      I think that might be a miscommunication. Children’s results will be available in July as in previous years. However, the progress measures won’t be available until the autumn.

  6. claris2012 5 February 2016 at 7:10 am Reply

    Totally agree. The Interim, and worse still the pre-Interim TAs are ridiculous.
    Thank you for you videos on the new SATs and pupil progress – I used them last night at a SATs parents evening and parents found them very helpful. 😊

  7. joking64 5 February 2016 at 7:26 am Reply

    Your last paragraph particularly resonates with me. I would urge all NAHT members to respond on the NAHT consultation on assessment. It’s tempting to think it can’t get worse, then it does and we have to try and explain it to children and parents.

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