What purpose Teacher Assessment?


How many schools have spent the last couple of years telling the DfE that designing a new assessment system from scratch isn’t as easy as it looks? Now it seems we’ve reached the time where we can say:

We told you so!

For in all the rush and difficulty of trying to put together a teacher assessment approach, one can’t help but wonder whether the DfE have forgotten altogether what the point of it was! When I look at the new exemplification of the interim assessment framework (there’s that wretched interim word again), it doesn’t strike me that the current incarnation is any good for anything.

After all, what purpose might summative assessment judgements serve?

To inform parents?

Just hopeless. While the objective-level information might be of some interest, schools are much better equipped to provide information about pupils’ progress and attainment based on their on-going assessments. The simplistic category decision based on a fairly arbitrary list of criteria is not much use to parents at all.

Frankly, what’s on my mind at the moment is the issue of how we inform parents of the real information that underlies the useless information they’ll get from the proposed arrangements.

To inform secondary schools?

When a change to Teacher Assessment was first on the cards, I suggested the idea of a simple list of criteria that a teacher could make binary decisions about. My thoughts, though, were to limit those decisions to perhaps a maximum of 10 key areas that would be useful for secondary teachers to know. Instead of a simple Below/At/Above decision (or the rather more complex labels of the current monstrosity), it could offer a simple list of basic Level 4-type criteria that would inform future teachers. Imagine if for each child starting in Y7, a teacher could see a profile which read something like:

Adapt writing to various purposes/audiences     ✓
Use paragraphs to organise ideas in writing       ✓
Use appropriate sentence demarcation               ✓

Surely this would be more useful information for transition – and would need no laborious evidence-collection to accompany it. Much better, at least, than receiving children graded as “Working towards the expected standard” which tells us nothing.

To differentiate between pupils

This is where the level of expectation is all wrong. Almost universal agreement seems to be that the ‘expected standard’ descriptor looks more like an old Level 5 Writer than the Level 4b we were promised.  Bear in mind that just 36% of pupils achieved Level 5 or higher last year. That suggests that at least 1/2 of all pupils will be lumped into the “Working towards” standard, with many of the rest falling below even that. Hardly a good differentiator.  It seems all the more odd when we consider that the top band (Working at Greater Depth), which seems to align broadly with an old L5a, would likely cover a tiny percentage of pupils.

To hold schools to account

How on earth can schools be held to account when 50% of pupils are likely to be lumped into the same group. What hope is there for the progress measure, comparing pupils with similar starting points, if everyone has similar ending points. How can this possibly be of any use.

Except, of course, the problem is that this is exactly what is proposed. It may well be the case that half of pupils end up in the same band – with many pupils working at Level 2 in KS2 falling into that group. Do we all have the same progress score? Will a school’s progress measure come down to the luck of quite how close your children were to borderlines in Year 2?

It’s a farce. And the whole system seems to have lost its way.

The department needs to think again – and fast!

NAHT members should note that the organisation has given the DfE a week to address its significant concerns about workload and expectation, before proposing action in some form. Members are invited to pledge their support for action via the NAHT website.



17 thoughts on “What purpose Teacher Assessment?

  1. cazzypot2013 11 February 2016 at 11:23 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. @taylor_teacher 11 February 2016 at 11:56 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on @taylor_teacher.

  3. Alison Letten 12 February 2016 at 7:35 am Reply

    A ‘simple list of basic criteria’ could be useful for every point of transition, e.g. Year 4 to year 5. In addition, agreeing the list between teachers of different year groups could be a very productive conversation…. Thoughts?

    • newyear6wcm 12 February 2016 at 9:28 am Reply

      I agree that this is a much better approach and is something that various individuals, schools and consultants have already produced. The real value in this comes from a list which is built on the National Curriculum and it’s expectations as well as a school’s individual curriculum and expected outcomes for each year group rather than a one size fits all system. I am currently working on developing\tweaking such a system.

      • Alison Letten 12 February 2016 at 7:02 pm Reply

        I would be interested to see what you are developing- if you are happy to share.

  4. Chris Gallagher 12 February 2016 at 9:03 am Reply

    Shame the NAHT link doesn’t work!

  5. David 12 February 2016 at 9:34 am Reply

    How about using something like the progression pathways you can get for computing from the computing at schools website, for every subject. You (and the child) can say what they can do. They know what they need to do next. You’re not limiting progression based on how old they are…

  6. AssemblyTube (@AssemblyTube) 12 February 2016 at 2:58 pm Reply

    This chaos was completely predictable and the teacher professional associations should have made a lot more noise a couple of years ago before the existing system was destroyed with nothing to take its place. The idea that each school should create its own system is farcical. I said at the time that secondary schools would have no way of collating all the different primary school assessment systems. It is impossible to make such a system work nationally. Leadership should be about having a clear vision for the future and sadly we have very few leaders in education who are prepared to put their heads above the parapet and explain why something will not work. In the vacuum left we have allowed the mad and the bad in the DfE to believe that they know something about how to run the education system. They do not have a clue.

    • Michael Tidd 12 February 2016 at 6:11 pm Reply

      I think you’re confusing two things. Secondary schools will receive data, just like they always did, based on the tests and teacher assessment judgements. The issues are not really to do with on-going assessment in the classroom (about which the DfE were right to scrap levels, etc.), but about the systems in place for collecting statutory end-of-key-stage data.

  7. suecowley 12 February 2016 at 8:27 pm Reply

    It’s a complete mess, and I’m really glad you are writing about it Michael. I just wish I knew what I could do about it, especially as a parent.

    • Michael Tidd 12 February 2016 at 9:31 pm Reply

      I have the same wish. It’s hard to know how to get this sorted.

  8. […] Source: What purpose Teacher Assessment? […]

  9. joiningthedebate 13 February 2016 at 9:01 pm Reply

    It’s complete mess in secondary also
    School are recreating old levels.
    Scrap individual targets
    Scrap tracking
    Let’s talk about content instead.

  10. carolinemoore2014 14 February 2016 at 12:24 pm Reply

    Can anyone tell me why children use apparatus to support maths in the Interim framework when they are not allowed to in the tests at KS 1?
    KS 1 also have to produce evidence for maths, writing and reading. Any suggestions for the 90 words a minute?

    • Vicky Buxton 15 February 2016 at 6:48 am Reply

      Our local authority have told us that pieces of work can demonstrate this. Don’t prove they can write 90 words a minute by timing them!

  11. Simple Teacher (@Simple_Teacher) 15 February 2016 at 11:55 am Reply

    Apparatus is useful for the children to ‘see’ the maths they are doing, before working more abstractly. It is also a useful tool to aid children in explaining their mathematical thinking. I know it’s hard to see past them, but the KS1 tests should not be the focus of Y2 maths teaching – keep getting out the apparatus and use it for your more able pupils to check or demonstrate their maths once they have done the abstract work. Your less able children will need to use it until they start to really understand what they are doing. And yes, that might well not be before the end of the year. Good luck!

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