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Fluctuating NC levels during KS3

Discussion in 'Assessment' started by emkay, Jul 7, 2011.

  1. emkay

    emkay New commenter

    I've re-posted this from the science forum to see if other readers have any ideas ...

    I was wondering if anyone has any ideas to a problem we are having in our science department at the moment.

    We give each student an end of year NC target at KS3 but we inform their parents four times a year about their childs' NC level. Taking these snapshots of achievement has led to certain childrens' levels going up / down (as you would expect) throughout the year however their final NC level usually matches their target. I've explained to SMT about this issue but they've requested a solution ... of which I don't know the answer!

    What do other departments do to 'smooth out' this non-linear achievement in their faculties?

    PS Thanks to the earlier responses from bogstandardcomp and marshypops!
  2. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Know what you mean - and it's inevitable if you're doing short term "levelling".
    As a head of English, when asked by Ofsted inspectors: "Key Stage 3 - how often do you level the children's work?" my answer was "Once - at the end". And that was the answer that was approved.
    Really, children's levels never go down. If they're level 5 at the end of key Stage 2, then they can never in KS3 be level 4. That's how national curriculum assessment works. If they've got their 5, they've got it and you can't take it away from them.
    And it's why, legally, you only have to report levels once in the three years.
  3. penny_sweet

    penny_sweet New commenter

    I'm head of music at our school and we have a similar problem as the levels for assessment fluctuate so much due to us covering so many different instruments and types of assessment. I assess each half term and will note down all levels in my planner. At the same time I give pupils a new working at level (this is what goes out to parents at the relevant time). I do this by giving an average of all assessments, but I will never put their working at level down, it will just say at the same until they are consistently showing a higher level. With this being said all levels are written down by pupils, not just their working at level so that they can identify which areas are their weakest points and work on them to bring up their overall working at level.
    Hope that helps.
  4. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    "Taking these snapshots of achievement has led to certain childrens'
    levels going up / down (as you would expect) throughout the year however
    their final NC level usually matches their target. I've explained to
    SMT about this issue but they've requested a solution ... of which I
    don't know the answer!"
    You explain the truth - that NC levels are not "snapshots". Each real NC level is a review of a three year programme of work. That's why the level descriptions are written in such general terms.
    The only genuine level (the one you have to do and have to report) is the one that happens at the end. The others are pretty meaningless, really. That one at the end could possibly (if a child has suffered some disability in KS3, for instance) be the same as the KS2 one but if there's been no catastrophe, then it'll be higher.
    If SMT can't understand that simple notion, then they should go away and get some decent assessment training.
  5. Research published today suggests reading ages can and do regress if children do not read with understanding
    If a skill is not practiced often enough then it can be lost, so I can see no reason why NC levels via assessments could not go down. This is why continuous formative assessment is essential (although I am sure Mr G would like to see a return to KS3 Sats!)
    Also, I have never seen a primary assessed level 5 science student be able to complete the level 5 tasks and skills at KS3 simply because they have access to neither the equipment nor expertise at KS2
  6. This always does my head in and I was glad to read the common sense notion that the only level that counts is the one at the end. There is an internal inconsistency through KS3 due to skills not being constantly practised and the nature of the subject. The post about music echoes what I find in science. The level the student shows is dependant on what part of general science is being covered at the time - some achieve higher or lower levels in each of the biology, chemistry or physics parts. Don't even get me started on the assessment of science skills and thinking.

    This is so true and creates a difficult hurdle for 'progress' in KS3 and working from KS2 levels is even more clouded now they are all teacher assessed. This sounds like I don't think Primary science teachers are doing a good job - far from it, but when there is a lack of equipment and expertise there are some very big gaps that need filling before Level 5 can be 'proved' in Y7.
  7. tafkam

    tafkam Occasional commenter

    Why? What part of the Level 5 criteria is it that you think requires a Bunsen burner? In many middle schools the KS2 children have no more access than most primaries for Science resources and yet still make steady progress through KS2 and KS3.
  8. Which raises some more interesting questions I think. I am probably more hung up on what a student has to be able to do to achieve a Level 5 in each of the units they are taught and some of those things require direct involvement with ever increasing specialised equipment. Then there is the increased specialised knowledge that still only achieves a level 5 at KS3 in each unit. For example Acids & Alkalis that requires the use of items not generally found in Primaries and the knowledge of pH classification and basic neutralisation. In terms of achieving the level 5 criteria at KS2 I know many students are able to do this provided they have had a range of experiences that ground them in scientific thinking and enable them to explain their ideas - covering the Sc1 to Sc4 criteria for the KS2 stage, but what they then have to do at KS3 is apply these again in new contexts. So maybe there is a systemic glitch that leaves KS3 teachers scratching their heads at students with level 5 who then do not exhibit this in Y7. It makes progressing them that bit harder.
  9. tafkam

    tafkam Occasional commenter

    I think these problems are because we have got used to over-assessing and over-testing. If you look closely at the L5 criteria for Chemistry it makes no mention of acids or alkalis.

    The issue arises because - understandably - secondary Science teachers see that the knowledge of things like "similarities between some chemical reactions, for example, the reactions of acids with metals" appears at L6, and so presume by (false) deduction that some simpler understanding of acids is required for L5. Of course, the reality is that children are expected to have had 2 further years of teaching before reaching L6, so it would be perfectly possible to teach a full acids/alkalis unit before awarding L6 well before the end of Y8. Of course, it is also then harder to show progress.

    Like so often, the issue so frequently raised by markuss is spot on: levels are only meant to be used at the end of the key stage; the endless determination to break them down into smaller steps, or for more frequent use merely corrupts the system - and indeed engenders mistrust between sectors.

    A sorry state of affairs for which no-one party is entirely to blame, but for which we all hold some sliver of responsibility.
  10. Agreed!

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