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Btec and ALPS targets

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by smiteu, Oct 27, 2015.

  1. smiteu

    smiteu New commenter

    I recently had my annual meeting to discuss grades, and was asked why our Btec results were so low (DMM - MMM average). The head used ALPS booklet to show that our students should be getting DDD. I pointed out that ALPS also stated that people who would not even get into sixth form ( less than 4 GCSE passes) should also be getting All distinctions. I do not think ALPS are genuine targets due to how Btec is internally moderated. Can people confirm they get all their students distinctions genuinely?
  2. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    Disclaimer: I only teach A Levels, not BTECs.

    The way ALPS works (based on actual progress by students nationally) means its grading (the thermometer of Grade 1/Outstanding etc.) is entirely fair. It's ranking your students taking your subject against everyone else taking it. It's not perfect, but it's the best system I've seen.

    The targets ALPS produces are slightly different as they are deliberately aspirational. Nevertheless, they aren't unobtainable.

    At my school, the feeling is that vocational subjects actually have a better chance of getting decent ALPS grades than A Levels. Virtually all of our BTECs (we do about six) get 'red' ALPS scores whereas only a handful of our A Levels (we do over 20) do. The general concensus is that there are probably more disengaged BTEC students nationally than disengaged A Level students and ALPS, of course, reflects this.

    So, I'm afraid, my experience tells me that actually the opposite of what you say is true.
  3. drek

    drek Star commenter

    In which case the average results achieved by 'disaffected' students in the OP's school were very good.
    It is reasonable for management to ask why the results did not match aspirations of an outside body, whose methodology of obtaining current progress is unclear.
    Say, for the purpose of reflection, or to revise their school's A- level choices, or simply to find out what is happening at ground level in their own school.
    Many SLT now have minimum teaching experience, with real growing humans beings, from a variety of backgrounds and coping with real life issues. (spreadsheets ignore much of this when pursuing ideal targets). It does not treat students as individuals, whereas teachers have to prove they do!

    In a healthy school, the teacher would be asked what could be done for the students, by the school, if anything, to improve individual grades.
    It would be assumed that the teacher had tried their best to push their disaffected students to achieve, as always.

    It is however unreasonable to have these discussions, under the banner of performance management, where the teacher is held solely responsible for students not achieving 'ideal' grades, and payrises for next year withheld, using aspirational targets.

    Pretty sure Nike would not renege on its contract to pay sports stars on their roll, for being runner-ups or even in the first 100, instead of winners, despite 'aspiring' to win. The player would be protected from being dumped after every loss. In their contracts.

    There would be a discussion on how to try and win the next match between coach and player, and reflect on the match just played. injury and current psychological profiles would be accounted for.

    It is absolutely ridiculous, to put such stress on an individual, over what is seen as 'under-achievement', against aspirational targets.
  4. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    I did not say this applied to the original poster's students; I said just said there were more disengaged (not 'disaffected' – a very deliberate choice) students taking BTECs nationally than A Levels. As the results tend not to be as good for BTECs nationally, ALPS reflects this with lesser expectations. Note, however, that this mainly applies to the ALPS grade and not so much the target (see below).

    ALPS makes its methodology very clear. Look at the ALPS website.

    I agree entirely. The key factor here (and perhaps I should have made this clearer in my first reply) is the difference between an ALPS target and ALPS grade.

    The target is deliberately aspirational. It doesn't even differentiate between subjects. It has its uses, but they should mainly be just setting an aspirational target. No more, no less.

    The ALPS grade (1/Outstanding, 2/Outstanding, 3/Very Good, 4/Good etc.) is more reliable. This is subject-specific and based on the actual progress of students in your school/college compared to students nationally. It really shows how a subject has performed.

    Nevertheless, the blame (or praise) for obtaining a certain ALPS grade should not be laid at the teacher's door. The teacher is only one factor in the progress a student makes.
  5. nervousned

    nervousned Lead commenter

    ALPS cannot in any way be described as reliable. It does not take into account the size of the cohort and since one student 'underperforming' in a cohort of six affects the ALPS score/grade substantially more than it would in a cohort of over one hundred, this makes the outcome virtually meaningless. Put this together with the fact that every value added system is based on the flawed assumption that the cohort of an institution is a random sample of the national cohort and you are left with completely worthless data.

    ALPS actually has greater expectations for students studying BTECs than A levels. It expects much weaker students to achieve much higher UCAS points in BTEC.
  6. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    These are all valid criticisms. The question is: is there a better system? At least this system is based on progress, not raw results. As I have said, I certainly don't think ALPS is perfect, but – if we accept that accountability must exist – a progress based system is always going to be fairer than one based on raw results.

    That's because BTEC students progress more than A Level students nationally. That's the whole point. The 'expectations' for students are directly tied to national figures.

    Whether this means than BTECs are 'easier' than A Levels is another issue. ALPS just reflects the reality of the results.
  7. smiteu

    smiteu New commenter

    Candy Dog

    i am a bit confused - are you saying that Btec expectatons at ALPS are lower than A-level as the opposite is true as to get ALPS targets of 3 A grades at A2 you need to have good GCSE results - mainly A grades however to get 3 distinction grades at Btec you need approximately 4 C grades for ALPS to proclaim you can get the tpe grades. I agree that Btec students are more disengaged, and for me even keeping some of these students in school is an achievement.

    I think that the ALPS targets now are being used as the grade that should be attained rather than the one that could be achieved if the student has a seriously good year.

    Thankfully i no longer have the problem as i resigned from the post as after 10 years i was fed up trying to support my case with people who were only interested in what the data said, and not at the work that went into getting students through 2 years (includes turning up at B & Q warehouses to collect assignments and front doors at 8 AM etc - ah good times!!!!)

    thankfully i am no longer the co-ordinator and can feel the years drop off

    have a good new year all
  8. gregometer

    gregometer Occasional commenter

    Good for you. I'm not in an unrelated situation, where the impossible is being constantly asked of me and then I'm always being asked what I'm doing about it. Nothing is being asked of students and I swear they are getting lazier and lazier especially in the Sixth Form and especially with the ones who should be working in a shop or mowing someone's lawn, not studying to go to University (on account of their poor behaviour and attitude for years, oh, and the fact they can't read or write properly or relate to adults or know what hard work means yet). I haven't resigned so far but have applied for some dozen jobs in Asia and have some interviews in two weeks. Frankly, I have had enough of ALPS, unrealistic targets and rubbish students. I'm hoping that International schools can offer a ray of hope to someone who likes to teach and likes working hard.
  9. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    No, I'm say the expectations are exactly the same. ALPS scores are directly tied to national progress. The progress of your school's A Level students is measured against A Level students nationally and the progress of your BTEC students is measured against BTEC students nationally.

    Exactly. Students that nationally get AAA at A Level tend to have top GCSE grades, while those who get three Distinctions at BTEC tend to have middling GCSE grades. ALPS reflects this.

    This is the issue. ALPS targets are a little aspirational (though not 'seriously' so) and are also not subject specific. They should only be a guide. What is important is your subject's ALPS score (the decimal number) and its corresponding grade (such as 'Grade 3/Excellent'). This is what tells you how your cohort did compared to others nationally. Your school seems to be de-emphasising this aspect of ALPS, even though it's the whole point of the system.

    All the best for your non-coordinating future.
  10. wanet

    wanet Star commenter

    All these systems are really making "predictions" based upon large numbers. For small numbers the variation is large.

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