There are more questions than answers, pictures in my mind that will not show;
There are more questions than answers, and the more I find out the less I know;
Yeah, the more I find out the less I know………….
Rereading the NAHT review of assessment, from February of 2014, http://www.naht.org.uk/welcome/news-and-media/press-room/profession-takes-lead-on-assessment-after-the-end-of-levels/ the principles stated a general acceptance that levels have gone, but that any replacement was likely to have similarities, at least until GCSE grades took over at some stage during Secondary education. Some Secondaries have actively looked at a five year grading system, based on the capabilities required to gain 5 A*-C grades.
Key recommendations announced by Lord Sutherland (NAHT) included:
- Schools should adopt a consistent approach to assessment across the country. The commission also produced a ‘design checklist’ to underpin this;
- Schools should retain the use of levels while designing a new system;
- Pupils should be judged against objective criteria rather than ranked against each other;
- All assessments need external moderation and that this moderation needs real teeth;
- Assessment should be driven from the curriculum.
- Perhaps most significantly, in practical terms, the document includes an attempt by the NAHT to start the work of providing the outline of a model assessment policy for schools to use.
- It mentions the need to translate the new “national” (note 3) curriculum into detailed assessment criteria, against which children’s progress can be judged. The NAHT, says the document, is now commissioning its own model version setting out the detail.
- The paper then suggests that schools replace the levels system with a structure setting out what pupils should normally be expected to know by the end of each school year.
- Pupils might be formally assessed every term, with judgements then made as to whether they are “developing”, “meeting” or “exceeding” each relevant end-of-year criterion. Those adjudged to be “exceeding” expectations would then also be judged against the criteria for the next year.
With the publication of the Government's "Performance descriptors for use in key stage 1 and 2 statutory teacher assessment for 2015 / 2016" on 23rd October 2014, I was drawn to what I wrote back in February, reflecting on the impact of assessment language on children's motivation, especially with the notion embedded in the new document of a "national standard". I am reflecting more on this, in a different post, on progress and outcomes as the implications are potentially huge.
What if, as is stated quite strongly, instead of levels of progress, the new assessment tool judges learners against their capacity within a peer group, especially in Primary, where the curriculum is collated as either single, or two year blocks of study, using the “developing, meeting or exceeding” tags above, or the mastery, at national standard, working towards national standard or not at national standard, of the proposed assessment descriptors?
- What’s the implication of still “developing”/ "working towards" or "not at national standard" at the end of, say, year 1? Is the child given permission to move on, as the curriculum for year 2 is very specific and this learner has not “completed satisfactorily” year 1?
- What if you are “exceeding”, or have mastered the year group expectation and are significantly ahead, so needing the “borrow” the curriculum from the year above, if you are year two in an infant school, or year six in a junior/Primary? Will juniors or Secondaries want to “lend” their year 3/7 curricula?
I could foresee some schools exploring the use of yearness grading to organise cross year setting, which may enthuse younger, advanced, learners, but is highly likely to demotivate older, struggling learners.
- And there is a real question in my mind about those learners deemed not to be “year two ready”, “junior ready” or “secondary ready”, both in terms of their self-esteem at the point of decision, but also the impact on them at transition, when there are already likely to be embedded concerns.
- Realistically too; if you are deemed to be “exceeding” the requirements for year six, why are you there, not in year seven already?
- I am waiting for a politician to argue for keeping some children back while some move on faster, or, more simply, to have two grades of school at age 11, one for the academic half and one for the rest, or those that pass and those that fail.
It was the same before the National Curriculum and is the same now.
All this, it seems to me, to be in the cause of getting to the predetermined figure of 85% of children leaving Primary schools at the equivalent of level 4b (although the criteria in the new document appear to be higher than that, especially in Maths).
This begins to appear a very cumbersome means to achieve that aim and will have distracted the profession for the over two years, by the time any successor schemes are in place. With the same effort, we could have addressed any shortcomings in the existing system, creatively, instead of a mad scramble to fill the void.