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Assessment? Gone right or gone wrong?

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by adebabe, Dec 30, 2007.

  1. PGCE student here again.
    How do you 'real' teachers feel about the way your KS3 students are assessed for levels?

    PROCESS vs PRODUCT
    This is a formative vs summative argument, really. Do you feel your students are getting a fair levelling?
    Do you give any validity to what goes on in the classroom when you are assessing? ie how experimental, pro-active, helpful or inspirational to others a student might be or is the bulk of your assessment based solely on the work they present for summative assessment?
    Do you feel what you do does full justice to each and every student?
    Are the assessments you do really for the benefit of the learner or bending to the weight of a cruel and invisible master?

    I'd love your 'experienced opinions'(as I have little of the former and only a bit more of the latter!!). Bitter and twisted as you like.......
    ....only a few days til' you're back!

    Happy New Year xxx
    Adebabe
     
  2. PGCE student here again.
    How do you 'real' teachers feel about the way your KS3 students are assessed for levels?

    PROCESS vs PRODUCT
    This is a formative vs summative argument, really. Do you feel your students are getting a fair levelling?
    Do you give any validity to what goes on in the classroom when you are assessing? ie how experimental, pro-active, helpful or inspirational to others a student might be or is the bulk of your assessment based solely on the work they present for summative assessment?
    Do you feel what you do does full justice to each and every student?
    Are the assessments you do really for the benefit of the learner or bending to the weight of a cruel and invisible master?

    I'd love your 'experienced opinions'(as I have little of the former and only a bit more of the latter!!). Bitter and twisted as you like.......
    ....only a few days til' you're back!

    Happy New Year xxx
    Adebabe
     
  3. In my view, using attainment levels at any point other than the end of a Key Stage is entirely invalid. The ATs are specified for overall performance, it is impossible to use them to rate peformance for a year (or even worse, an individual piece of work). Even worse is the statistical travesty called sublevels. There is no justification other than the desire to show year on year progress.

    As you may guess, I do not like the way that levelling is used in schools generally. To be honest, most of my colleagues seem to just make up the figures in order to show the required improvement - unless a pupil is particularly obnoxious when they may be given a poor assessment in the, usually vain, hope that they will be movedout of your set.

    Where externally validated end of KS testing is not used then you will tend to see the results you expect. One needs only look at the output from KS2 - I daily see Y7 pupils supposedly at level 5 or even 6 who lack the most rudimentary skills and knowledge of my subject. Most will be lucky to get 'back' to level 5 by the end of KS3. How much time and effort has been wasted trying to explain the dip in performance 'caused' by transition? Perhaps the money would have been better spent on examining the effects of league tables on assessment.
     
  4. I use them at the end of each project as we enter this data into assessment manager, like the previus poster I do this to level every piece of work is ridiculous and not what the levels were intended for in my mind.

    We level 3 times a year, once per term at the end of the project work and the pupils are aware of the next project and its challenges so that they can try to improve their skills.

    This works for us.
     
  5. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    We level everything - about 3 times every half term - and sub-level.

    We have a spreadsheet which colours in whether a pupil is on target, above or below. If below - Steps Are Taken.

    I have one of these spreadsheets to fill in over the holidays (to make sure that all my marking is up to date) and it must be completed for a meeting during 1st week of term. And no, I couldn't do it before the end of term as all the assessments were done in the final week of term. And no, I had no choice as to when to do them.
    Last time a couple of pieces were late, I was told that the next step was disciplinary action.

    I do not have a life.
     
  6. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    When I was being trained for the NC and its assessment a few things were drummed into me about levels (by LEA advisors/inspectors):

    NC assessment is not a tick the box model;
    Levelling single pieces of work is invalid;
    You can level about once a year if you want (a child's level of work can change over a twelvemonth) but there's nothing at all wrong with levelling the statutory number of times only.

    (That's once in three years - right at the end of the key stage.)
     
  7. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Although the national curriculum was rewritten later, levels were still only meant to be used once in a key stage. That still hasn't changed.

    There are much better ways of doing day-to-day assessment.

    I've never had to have anything to do with the theoretical sublevels but I've been told that generally level 5a (for example) means something like "this child was level 4 two terms ago and is still L 4 - when he's been on level 4 for another term or two, then I'll tell you he's gone up to 5b".

    Sounds daft to me but I suppose I'm just old fashioned.
     
  8. minnie me

    minnie me Lead commenter

    Completely agree with post 2 - levelling has become synonomous with AFL in our school however the students and many of the staff do not have the skills/ time to conduct a worthwhile dialogue about where the student 'is' and what the students needs to do to improve. Laughably there is an expectation from the LT that everyone is a ' learner' and wants to raise their game. Working through and reporting on deconstructed levels has turned in to a full time activity and I am not convinced it has any value in the long term . Many of our students are less able and no matter how hard they work / try they will not even be ' average 'in the skills which we can measure.... it is very demotivating for them and their parents - many of whom I speak to on a regular basis- lack of emphasis on improvement in ' soft skills' is as if not more important but no one seems interested in these because it doesn't show in League Tables !
     
  9. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    Post #6. A 5a is higher than a 5b. 5a means knocking on the door of a level 6. A 5c means just scraped over the boundary between a L4(a) and L5.

    We (Science) teach in units and we only level end of topic tests (and SATs of course). We have just divided each boundary of marks into 3 to give c,b and a sub levels. Kids get all sorts of levels in these tests and it is not unknown for a child to score a 6b in one topic then due to things like absence etc get a 3a on the next one. We just put the marks into a spreadsheet which agregates and averages all the numbers and levels and we have a 'factoring' formula in there which helps to alleviate the fact that one low test mark can seriously lower an average. We know it's not perfect but it keeps SMT off our backs and provides the figures that they like to see. It also gives us some numbers to write on reports etc. If we didn't have this system we would only have to invent another one. We don't level individual pieces of work although persuading non science SMT that this was not possible took some time and I think they still don't beleive us!
     
  10. teachur

    teachur New commenter

    Just remember that the point of education, in a purely IDEALIST way is to...educate the pupils, not ust vindicate SMT's sense of self satisfaction and self-importance.

    My school must waste £1000s a year on printing endless streams of "assessment data" in multicoloured sodding spreadsheets.

    The problem you really have is looking at what you mean by "assessment". What does ANYONE mean by it? AFL is just a buzz-term that suits invented to try and justify the ridiculous amount of levels and "attainment" that we churn out day after day.

    Your other porblem now is that EVERYTHING, and i mean EVERYTHING (even the f**king coffee machine in the staffroom) is focused on pupils getting the golden 5 A*-C grades. That is right from year 7. So every single piece of work they do, some schools want a grade all the time and if they produce a piece of work in year 8, for exmaple, that does not fit "in line" with them achieving a C or above in 4 years time then YOU, yes YOU are under scrutiny.

    Equally, you have pupils who excel in KS3 and suggest that they should get straight-A grades. Then they hit 14, turn into a f**king EMO, miserable fool, parents divorce after one of thm has been abusing the child, police are called the night before their English exam and hey are dragged into emergency care due to there being too much Heroin in the house; child is brutally injured in a car crash on the way to the care home and loses both legs, in a coma for 5 years...

    ...and they will STILL want know: "Why didn't they get 5 A*-C???? They got all level 6s at the end of year 9"

    And yet, the irony is that when OfSTED assess school assessment, they assess, in all their assessment wisdom, that the assessment has been assessed to be "satisfactory".

    What are we doing???????
     
  11. Wow! Thanks so much for the responses!
    I'm building a picture of discontent regarding the acquisition and use of summative data.

    Any opinions on how the student actually benefits, or is it purely to satisfy SLT and LEA?
     
  12. Blazer, you say "5a is higher than a 5b. 5a means knocking on the door of a level 6. A 5c means just scraped over the boundary between a L4(a) and L5." This serves to illustrate the nonsense of sublevels. There is no standard definition. I have worked in schools that used abc in ascending (ie 5b better than 5a) and descending (5b worse than 5a). I have also assessed using decimals 4.9, 5.0, 5.1, 5.2 etc and currently have a pseudo-decimal system that uses four possible sublevels - 5.0, 5.1, 5.5, 5.9.

    The point being that a pupil who is in reality barely a L4 on entry to KS3 (but comes with a KS2 levelling of 5) can be shown to progress from 5.0 to 5.5 and on to 5.9 in Y9 (thus keeping parents happy) but is still reported as a 5 at end of KS3 (even though this may still be optimistic).
     
  13. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    Tjhat is what we use and we were instructed by our 'consultant' who used the nmonic 'Can't Be @rsed' to remember the order! That is also how the level graphs that get produced are also labelled. Don't blame me, we just play the system and keep SMT happy meanwhile trying to teach the kids what they need to know.
     
  14. Thanks for all the responses. I'm getting a very valuable window on how it all works.
    Can I throw something else into the mix?

    Given the increase in assessment requirements with both levels and AfL, is anything being done to free up time for effective planning of learning to take place?
    Or is the teacher required to extend their working day if they wish to achieve both well planned interesting lessons and be able to assess thoroughly as well?
     
  15. teachur

    teachur New commenter

    PPA time

    Which too many schools do not honour!
     
  16. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    Oh, yes - I can do all that in 2.5 hours!

    Our school does honour PPA time, btw.
     
  17. I think time is the key issue. With my A-level students I do regularly assess their work using grade descriptors with the specification as a guide and discuss with them what they would need to do to move up a grade boundary. I have 6 A-level students, whom I see for 5 hours a week. They care a lot about their grades.

    In contrast I teach 354 students in KS3 - I see each class once a week. Most of them do not really understand the level descriptors in my subject. I simply do not have time to assess regularly and feed back individually re the marvellous AfL initiative. I do the minimum to keep the SLT happy. (sometimes not even that much). If I only taught 6 students at KS3 however, I would probably approach assessment in much the same way that I do my sixth formers.
     
  18. In answer to the lat question on post 13:

    'Or is the teacher required to extend their working day if they wish to achieve both well planned interesting lessons and be able to assess thoroughly as well?'

    That would be a 'yes'.

    THe teacher is always expected to extend their working day (and working weekend, and working holiday) to achieve AfL, good lessons, good seating plans etc. And in a way, I accept this - it's part of my job.
    I just wish they would stop putting extra 'bits' onto it - they add to the workload, but never reduce it anywhere.

    Malu
     
  19. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

  20. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    (For those who routinely did those 24 things, at any rate.)
     

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