The Problems with Teacher Assessment

The following statements all came from the 2015 report from the Commission on Assessment without Levels. They all appeared under the heading “The problems with levels”. Are there any of these issues that don’t also apply in exactly the same way to the new interim teacher assessment frameworks?

  • [They] required aggregating a wide variety of data into a single number
  • Too often levels became viewed as thresholds
  • Teaching became focused on getting pupils across the next threshold instead of ensuring they were secure in the knowledge and understanding
  • In reality, the difference between pupils on either side of a boundary might have been very slight, while the difference between pupils within the same level might have been very different
  • Although levels were intended to define common standards of attainment, the level descriptors were open to interpretation
  • Different teachers could make different judgements
  • The information secondary schools received from primary schools was sometimes felt to be unreliable or unhelpful.
  • Teachers planned lessons which would allow pupils to learn or demonstrate the requirements for specific levels
  • The drive for progress across levels also led teachers to focus their attention disproportionately on pupils just below level boundaries
  • Pupils compared themselves to others and often labelled themselves according to the level they were at
  • The disconnect between levels and the content of the national curriculum also meant that telling a parent his or her child was level 4b, did not provide meaningful information about what that child knew and understood or needed to know to progress.
  • The expectation to collect data in efforts to track pupils’ progress towards target levels considerably increased teachers’ workload.

It’s also worth noting that when Mr Gove first made the announcement, the webpage that explained it said:

  • We believe this system is complicated and difficult to understand, especially for parents.

Just saying.


16 thoughts on “The Problems with Teacher Assessment

  1. Kimberley 27 February 2016 at 6:31 pm Reply

    Haha! 🙈

  2. Kimberley 27 February 2016 at 6:33 pm Reply

    All I have left now is laughter at the ridiculousness of all of this.

    Y6 teacher, DHT x

  3. […] Source: The Problems with Teacher Assessment […]

  4. cazzypot2013 27 February 2016 at 7:12 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  5. Geoff 27 February 2016 at 8:28 pm Reply

    Spot on but the problems vis transition to KS3 are exacerbated & the penultimate paragraph is grimly hilarious given recent parents’ evening & trying to explain how assessment without levels works in our school.

  6. Mags 27 February 2016 at 10:07 pm Reply

    Ha ha. Just tragic. I am laughing in my tears

  7. Chris Lloyd-Staples 28 February 2016 at 8:55 am Reply

    Predictable problems. In fact, so predictable that I told schools in my area to stick with a modified form of Levels until a better system appeared. Still waiting……. It is sad that too few people are prepared to stand up and say “No” to the DfE.

  8. Kate Cameron 28 February 2016 at 10:39 am Reply

    You’re a supporter of getting rid of levels and reclaiming the new system for ourselves, Michael. Do you see any way these issues could (have) be (been) avoided? It seems to me that the problem is the governments obsession with simplistic accountability measures, but could the new system have delivered something better?

    • Michael Tidd 28 February 2016 at 12:44 pm Reply

      I supported the idea of a list of specific criteria, but I’d rather pupils have been credit for each individually, rather than needing to complete a whole list just to reach a given level.
      Am thinking to blog about an alternative possibility…

  9. julietgreen 28 February 2016 at 12:52 pm Reply


  10. Kate Cameron 28 February 2016 at 1:14 pm Reply

    Doesn’t the way the tests will give a judgement on standards based on a score also contradict the Commission’s Report: “Levels also used a ‘best fit’ model, which meant that a pupil could have serious gaps in their knowledge and understanding, but still be placed within the level.” A pupil could reach the expected standard in the test and yet get every question on fractions wrong. Yet their teacher assessment would have to reflect that they had not met the expected standard – a strange anomaly in KS2, a major dilemma for KS1 teachers…

    • Michael Tidd 28 February 2016 at 1:48 pm Reply

      That’s why I think we need to completely divorce the two processes: test score approaches are perfectly adequate for accountability purposes, but useless for transferring useful information to the next teacher/school.

  11. Beth Budden 28 February 2016 at 4:45 pm Reply

    The whole problem is the twisted view the DfE have of accountability and assessment. They are obsessed in using the latter as a tool for the former and this has infected education very deeply and twisted how many school leaders treat assessment too. Hence we have a system where teachers spend most of their precious time trying to prove to everyone else that the children have made progress rather than actually focusing on the children making progress in class. Sounds ridiculous, but teachers spend more time ticking boxes and filling in sheets of this, that and the other rather than actually planning or designing lessons to help children progress. Many teachers I know tell me that If they refused to fill in another document to record or prove children are making progress and instead were able to use that time to really respond to what each child needs, it would make a profound difference to children’s learning; this is the real experience of most teachers. I blame the DfE for not breaking down this lopsided culture where proving learning completely corrupts and overshadows teachers having the time to respond to learning, but I also blame school leaders for pandering to it and completely forgetting what it’s like being a teacher sat in a classroom trying to get by and plan good lessons that really respond to all children’s learning needs, WHICH IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF TEACHING! I am lucky in that many of the leaders I have worked with understand this and over time have made less and less demands on teachers ‘to prove learning’ – the result has not been that teachers have taken their eyes off the ball and spent more time in the staffroom; no – the result has been that teachers have had the time to design lessons that intricately respond to children’s learning, and what a surprise: – these leaders gets outstanding results, not just in scores or numbers, but in children’s attitudes and love of learning. There – I think I made my point!! Ha-rumph!

    • suecowley 28 February 2016 at 7:04 pm Reply

      Very well said! What an absolute mess this whole thing is. I’m going to have to be embarrassed on behalf of the DfE, since they don’t seem to be.

  12. Chris Chivers 28 February 2016 at 5:38 pm Reply

    Because “assessment” has become synonymous with tests, largely terminal, with acountability in mind, rather than essentially knowledge of the children in the class determining decisions, refined over time, all of the list will always pertain.

    Assessment, to me, is the real thinking aspect of teaching, embedded in learning challenge, determining vocabulary choice and language structure, checking evident anomalies, adjusting expectation short term, to facilitate achievement. A dynamic reading of the teacher standards directs teachers to be actively reflecting on learning and adjusting to evidence, TS 6&5.

    AoL has trumped AfL thinking, which is a long term danger within the system as teacher mindset alters within a new approach.

    As for Secondary transfer. The current situation will allow them to persist in ignoring Primary outcomes, as they will still be seen as insecure.

  13. […] have written briefly about this in the past, but let me set it out in more […]

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