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Exam targets being set by a private management consultant firm.

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by Marcussmod, Oct 14, 2010.

  1. My current school is using a private sector management consultant firm to set all HOD targets based on KS3 SATs. All HODs are expected to get 93% GCSEs A*-C in a school with a very "mixed " range of students. There has been no consultation with staff and the new HT is adopting a very "macho" style of management. Has any one any experience of this? Next year most HODs will not meet their targets as they are unrealistic. I fear this will be used by SMT as an excuse to weed people out.

  2. Talk to the other HODs about this. Strength in numbers. Are the targets really too much? What does FFT say? Our targets are set by consultation with range of people, but our head is a reasonable sort of guy when it comes to data...
  3. If targets are set far too high so that most can't achieve them then all this does is prove that the person that set them doesn't understand target setting. A target is something that causes you to raise your sight, but it must be achievable. If you fall short of a target but have tried your best then you should be praised. This is what we do with pupils.

    Whenever targets are set the basis for them must be justified. If they are plucked from the air and can't be explained, then the process will have no credibility. Useful targets could be set from pupils' key stage 2 results as FFT does, but better still they should be set from KS3 results. An average of pupils' results at key stage 3 is a good baseline because it irons out the ripples.

    Whilst setting sensible targets is important, what is more important is managing variation during the terms leading up to the exams. You can do this with an application like 4Matrix which shows up the differences in performance between subjects, classes and groups of pupils. Departments should then account for the differences. It will show up 'easy' and 'hard' subjects and highlight categories of pupils that are underachieving. You can't really do this with grades alone, but if you paste your current grades in twice a term it will do a complete analysis of projected performance in the 2011 exams, subject by subject, group by group.

    The important thing about an approach like this is that it allows a school to take action in advance. Contrast this with setting unachievable targets, waiting until you the exam results, and then bashing the teachers for not meeting their targets.
  4. The important point to make here is that targets should belong to the person who must try to meet them. Targets imposed by someone else are someone else's targets. Getting a management consultant firm to set targets, i.e. to pay someone else to set your targets for you, seems like about as bad as it can get.
    If you are going to do that call them 'estimates'. There can be several estimates depending on what baseline you use so a healthy situation is to write down all the estimates, weigh them up, take their average, comment on the likely accuracy of each of them ..... and then set your own targets.
  5. Don't get me started on the subject of targets.
    I well remember when I was working in industry that some companies would concentrate on targets based on turnover, profit, efficiency levels etc whilst others would concentrate on improving more general things like levels of customer and staff satisfaction. Those that did the latter were more likely to be successful in raising turnover and profit because these flowed from how the customers and staff felt about the company and its products. If students and staff can see the relevance of what they are doing and feel that they are supported in what they do then impoved results will follow. From what I am seeing, many schools are setting numerical targets and increasing stress levels in the process - thereby achieving the opposite of what they hoped. By all means use the results to monitor changes but don't let them drive change.

    Rant over!!
  6. brush75

    brush75 New commenter

    The fact that ALL of your HODs are supposed to get 93% A*-C just exposes the targets as specious b*llocks because it pre-supposes that all of your students are at the same level in every subject, which is clearly absurd.
    Also, what is it based on? Even using FFT "D" (aspirational), it is unusual to end up with a 93% figure unless you have a very able intake indeed (especially in the core subjects where KS2 figures are more important). A close friend of mine works in a grammar school where I live which ends up with 95+% of their students getting 5xA*-C and takes the high achievers in the 11+, and even their FFTDs are usually in the 80-85% A*-C range.
    I think the first poster had it right - strength in numbers. Get the HODs together and inform SMT politely that your professional opinion is that the targets are absurd and you'll be setting your own.
  7. brush75

    brush75 New commenter

    Oh, and it might be worth getting your union involved, especially if these "targets" are going to be used for PM.
    Just a thought - you're not an academy, are you?
  8. We are not an academy but a girls Catholic school in with a fairly average intake. The minimum pass rate of 93*% pass rates are based upon us meeting an upper quartile target set by a private sector consultant under instructions from the new HT. I have argued to SMT that as we do not select on ability that the targets are unrealistic and unachievable.
    Their response was to increase the ICT minimum target grades to 100% as they argue all OCR National pupils -which is about 30% of our students in ICT- should get at least a pass, even though some have CATs in the 80's and SATs at KS2 at level 3.
    Maybe I should see the union.

  9. In my work with schools I would say that target setting is a common weakness of school leaders.
    If a school is going to use upper quartile predictions for all students then it is simply revealing an inability to make sensible use of statistics. If everyone knows that the targets are unrelialistic then the process won't be taken seriously and there will be a lot of professional discomfort once the results are out. What will also happen is that everyone will want to move on, with the consequence that insuficient analysis will be done on the results to show how targets related to actual progress. If they are way off then it is school leaders that need to accept the criticism of poor leadership, not teachers for failing to get these results from their pupils.
    The best way to use tracking and target setting at key stage 4 is to use standardised end of key stage 3 results for every subject as a baseline, and a predictor of the likely grade at the end of key stage 4. Extrapolate the expected progress across years 10 and 11 from this and then use fine grades to adjust the confidence levels based on actual performance. e.g. a predicted C grade could be set to a C2 or a B3 - by using professional judgement.

    Now, add 2 fine grades to the actual level of attainment to provide a realistic target for the student to aim for. This may be that a student on a C2 ('could get a C grade with help') would be given a target of B (or B3 =could get a B with a lot of help), or one on C3 would be given a target of C (C1=secure C grade). Use the fine grades to track progress and publish the target grades to the students.

    Are any readers of this thread using a system like this?
  10. brush75

    brush75 New commenter

    @marcussmod: To be fair, nearly all students taking OCR National should get at least a pass assuming they're given enough time to complete it. We have a low-to-middle ability intake and practically the only students of ours that don't pass it are ones who don't turn up much. We had 94% this year - the 6% being 10 students, 7 of whom had attendance rates of 50% or less and three that were permanently excluded.
    The problem with these targets is the rest of your students who I presume are doing GCSE?

  11. bombaysapphire

    bombaysapphire Star commenter

    they need a grade B Maths GCSE student to explain to them what an upper quartile is!
    This smacks of some of the government targets - all students should be above average. Hmmmm!
  12. So given that standardised KS3 results are a thing of the past, what do you recommend using now. How do you recommend setting targets for non core subjects?
    You mean assume steady rates of progress to provide interim targets for the end of Year 10?
    Who determines which grades are adjusted? Can they be adjusted downwards in any circumstances?

  13. Setting GCSE targets is a problem area in many schools.

    Where I have seen it being done well there are three steps to the process:
    1. Work out their expected grade from prior performance
    2. Add a measured amount extra to act as an achieveable target.
    3. Once you get the actual results check to see how good your target setting was.

    1. Ofsted use KS2- KS4 to get a base figure for VA.
    However, KS2 results are usually inflated because of anxieties by primary school teachers who drill their pupils in the core subjects.
    But take an average of their KS2 results anyway and use national trend line to estimate the average GCSE grade. This is one plot.
    Next, take their CATS scores if they do these and do the same.
    Most schools do exams in year 9 to help determine options. Make sure all marks are converted to grades, hence my reference to 'standardised KS3 results'.
    These are probably the best predictors of future performance.
    Look at all three plots and decide what the best predicted grade might be.

    2. Add two fine grades with a 'floor' on their average to give you an achievable target.
    Remember that target setting is a phsychological process. If you set targets that the teacher and student know are unreachable it will be a pointless exercise. They must be achievable or even possible to exceed. +2 fine grades is a reasonable extra height to aim for. The floor on their average means not setting a D as a target even if an E is indicated, but a C. Why? - because if their average is a C it means they can get B's in other subjects, so to aim for average in their worst subjects is reasonable?
    Before releasing these 'formula driven targets' use professional judgement to 'tweak' them in individual cases.

    3. Once you get the actual results, do a post mortem to see how effective the target setting process was. Be honest about it. If you use FFT D as some LAs demand, then you will probably come to a conclusion that it was too stretching to be effective in most cases.
    If a reasonable percentage of pupils met or exceeded their target then the targets you have set have probably served their purpose well.

  14. linda.meyrick

    linda.meyrick New commenter

    Does anyone have a good system for setting targets for Y7. We currently use SATs results but does anyone do anything different especially for setting baseline targets for non-core subjects?
  15. We do our own baseline assessments with y7 as soon as they arrive (reading and writing sub levels plus spelling test in english) because many don't have a KS2 level / the KS2 level they do have is nonsense. We moderate them to be sure this is where they're at. Then the targets are set based on 4 levels of progress by end of y11 (lots of schools use 3 - this is the expected level of progress). The targets for non-core subjects are based on the school's eng and maths baseline assessments. This avoids the issue of weirdly high/low targets that teachers can't fathom and moan about. We're an academy though so we can set whatever targets we want, however we want.
  16. I am working with a school on data use at the moment. They have been setting 4 levels of progress as the last person says. However, it is the value added formula that needs to be used to decide if this is correct. I should say that the formula is very complex but once you get it into a spreadsheet you can put in the grades and see what it comes to for each pupil.
    What have divided our Y10 and Y11 up into high, middle and low based on their KS2 levels in english maths and science. What we have found is that 4 levels of progress makes the value added for the high pupils negative or just about positive. So some of these need to be set 5 levels. This means targets of A* across their subjects.
    Once you have targets that give a good VA value for every group you can use this to track towards across subjects.
  17. jonnymarr

    jonnymarr New commenter

    Shouting at / Telling HoDs: "I want better results / do better / work harder!", by itself, isn't 'macho' leadership - it comes across as clueless, stone-age and slightly desperate.
  18. As a HOD in ICT I would agree that all students should achieve at least a pass in ICT with the Nationals. Distinction is a completely different matter (its a world apart) and will depend on your moderator. The only thing to hinder this is school refusers or if students are repeatedly taken out of your lessons near the end of the course to catch up / revise for ebac subjects (yes it does happen!); sorry a personal gripe.
    As ofsted use FFTD, these are the best targets to use and for those achieving them, perhaps FFT top 10% may be something to strive for but not to be classed as failing if you do not meet them.
    Last year, every individual student met or exceeded their FFTD targets (1st time ever) in my department. However this year we have 3 students with Distinction targets which will never happen (they must have very good postcodes). On the other hand I have 6 students with passes as targets that are driven and are consistently achieving Distinction grade coursework.
    If your school gives you a target of zero or positive residual with FFDT then great as you should be meeting it if you and your department are effective. If on the other hand you are expected to get every individual student to hit or exceed their target then other factors out of your control will likely stop it from happening.
    If your school goes ahead and uses targets that are out of this world then just wait until the end of the year and see the headteachers reaction when every department fails. They do say that failure is good if it brings change. It would be funny it the headteacher rants saying that everyone is not working hard enough; demotivation would continue and perhaps a change of school is required at this point.

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