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How are you calculating GCSE grades? (this can't be right!...)

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by mistermanager, Jun 9, 2020.

  1. mistermanager

    mistermanager New commenter

    Given the current situation, I am interested in how everyone is developing final 'estimated' grades for GCSE in your different subjects?

    Are you encountering 'pressure' from above to 'inflate' or even 'downgrade' your marks so they sit nicely 'in line' with previous academic years' performance and how do you feel about this?

    My personal situation is this... My Year 11 cohort are a particularly able lot, and were all set to achieve particularly excellent results, comfortably in the green based on residuals and SPI. I am now being asked by powers above to 'reduce the estimated grades' I have developed for a vast number of students, as the data for this year is higher than that of last year and the previous year. This is making me very uncomfortable and is completely 'doing the students out of deserved grades'. Surely every cohort is different? Why should we penalise this cohort for being 'excellent'?

    Share your own views on this and your own situations/experiences. :)
  2. needabreak

    needabreak Star commenter

    Have you not had to previously record regular progress check grades and do you have access to baseline data (of whatever sort) on individual students to back your assertions? I'd present those to your data person if they have not already taken that into consideration together with a note on each student as to why you feel they would have likely achieved the grade you suggested. It's usually quite clear how they have been doing, providing your earlier marking was up to date.

    Some schools use the above together with VA calculations and I've heard of at least one that used FFT, I thought most did something like that.
    mistermanager likes this.
  3. tb9605

    tb9605 Established commenter

    Yep, I had this, with roughly the same reasons. I largely stood firm as I was confident about the evidence we could send to the exam board if they decided to query our results. I did agree to slightly raise the grade boundaries a few marks above last year's to allow for a margin of error in our marking, but that was it.

    Interestingly, my head's main concern was not that this cohort was doing better when compared to earlier years (they are, and that's down to more curriculum time), but that the students were doing better in my subject than in other subjects. To which my reply was: "that's because I'm teaching them." (Well, I felt a spurious argument deserved a spurious response.)
  4. physicsfanboy

    physicsfanboy Occasional commenter

    Credit where it's due, management at my place are not applying pressure in either direction. We are just giving grades that are what we believe to be accurate.
    Of course, the exam board is going to fiddle with them. But that's out of my hands.
    mistermanager and needabreak like this.
  5. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    Exam board won’t call for any evidence though. There will be no ability to present a complaint on that basis. So you have to stick close to previous years
  6. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    I’m the same. We’ve stayed close to previous years attainment- but it has gone up slightly. Now- exam board may push me down. But I’ve given the kids the best chance without being reckless. All i can do
    needabreak likes this.
  7. mistermanager

    mistermanager New commenter

    This is almost identical to my situation... I have been asked to bring down a vast proportion of our highest grades, due to them basically being too good and way higher than the same students are attaining in other subjects... Surely asking us to do this is simply unethical and 'manipulating data'...

    My proposed results are a couple of tenths higher in terms of residual and a couple of tenths higher in terms of SPI this year compared with the previous... It is simply natural fluctuation, but my hand appears to be being forced unfortunately. There are lots more sub variables and the mid to higher attainers are almost identical in terms of data to last year. Overall data is skewed up this year as we don't have such severe under - attainers. Why should we mark down our great students this year due to a couple of individuals having failed last year? Hmmm. I reckon this Summer will see a landslide of appeals from all angles. Very much a huge mess
  8. mistermanager

    mistermanager New commenter

    Same, I am within 2 - 3 tenths of a point in terms of residual and SPI, yet are still being asked to bring down most of our higher attainers. ( these are nailed on Grade 9 and 8 students)... I am not being reckless as you suggest...
  9. mistermanager

    mistermanager New commenter

    I would rather mark accurately (whether that is higher, lower or indifferent) and have the exam board mark us down than me 'manipulating data' downwards just to appease SLT. Sadly we are in the latter position, quite heavily so. Seems so very unethical to me.
  10. alm721

    alm721 New commenter

    The problem is, if you put in grades that are higher then your last 2 years average, unless you have a much higher ability cohort, your Slg will know that your results will be moved down. Whether or not you can evidence these grades will be irrelevant as this will not be taken into account. The boards need to ensure that grade inflation does not occur.(as this would be unfair to previous/future students) and the only way they can do this is to standardise grades and ensure they are similar to your average, (when taking into account prior attainment). This means that unfortunately, some students who genuinely would have done much better then previous cohorts may well see grades reduced if they are higher then expected. Its not fair, but whilst lots of teacher will be able to present a good case for better then average results, no/very few teachers will be arguing that their results should be lower then average, which means they cant take this sort of argument into account or grades will inflate.
    Whether being asked to adjust grades is unethical or 'manipulating data/ I'm not sure? I think it depends on the how and why and how secure you are in your predictions. If you decide a couple of borderline students maybe would be a grade lower and that results in everyone getting the grade you've predicted rather then some other students having grades reduced by the exam board who you thought were secure in their grades- is that worse/unethical?
    I think if you are being put under pressure to reduce grades, you need to be clear about why and the likely consequences of submitting higher then average results. You should only be looking at your subjects average though, not across the school- there's a massive variation in subject progress/attainment, and another subjects results shouldn't really come into it. Whatever you do if you get your ranking order as accurate as you can then at least you know that if the boards do change your grades, then those at the top of a grade should still be secure.
  11. tb9605

    tb9605 Established commenter

    Really? We're doing iGCSEs, so it's a different situation, and the boards are going to ask for evidence. Amazed 'home' boards aren't.
    mistermanager likes this.
  12. colacao17

    colacao17 Senior commenter

    I suspect that what matters is the ranking. I strongly suspect that exam boards will adjust marks to fit previous distributions. I think there's a risk that if grades are 'inflated' there is a risk that they are all downgraded. Maybe if there's pressure to downgrade, it stems from the fear that if grades are suspected to be too high, there'll be a school-wide downgrade from the boards.
    mistermanager and DYNAMO67 like this.
  13. colacao17

    colacao17 Senior commenter

    What kind of 'evidence' can they realistically ask for though? Mock papers? Noone knows under what circumstances mocks were sat. Class tests? ditto. Teachers grade books? CAT scores?
  14. Morninglover

    Morninglover Star commenter

    Stick to your guns, OP, and let the Exam Board work it out.
    mistermanager likes this.
  15. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    Every cohort is different, but things even out over time. Unfortunately, no schools can 'improve' (or fall) significantly this year. That only applies to progress, of course. If the cohort came in with higher attainment than previous years, they will be 'allowed' to receive higher grades.

    The exam boards won't be doing a subject-by-subject comparison within schools. All subjects will be treated individually (so if the Maths results have always been better than other subjects in the school, they still can be). Higher estimates in one subject than another could be a symptom of inflated grades, but it shouldn't be the only reason anyone is asked to look at grades again.


    I believe the reason international qualifications are having to ask for evidence is because they have limited prior attainment data and international schools' cohorts (and therefore previous results) are so variable. The ask-for-evidence approach is a compromise, not the an ideal.

    There definitely won't be a school-wide downgrade, as each subject is treated individually. The main factor will be the overall progress score for each subject, but there will be some looking at how the different abilities have been estimated too (the Grade 6s may be fine, but Grade 5s may be too high, for example). There'll be nothing at an individual student level, of course. Like all moderation, there may well be a 'tipping point' where the results go out of tolerance and grades get changed.
    mistermanager and DYNAMO67 like this.
  16. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    I don’t see the benefit of losing sleep on it. It isn’t worth falling out with SLT over it.

    And before you say about doing it for the kids... unless you are subjecting a kid to ‘failing’ maths or English, I don’t see that it really matters.

    Universities will be cautious... employers even more so if ever using these grades for anything. All that matters is kids get to their preferred next step..... they have GCSEs with the ultimate * next to them.

    And really... nobody has ever really lost their head over the grade they got in GCSE art.... I’m sorry if that sounds harsh
    mistermanager likes this.
  17. mistermanager

    mistermanager New commenter

    I have met them in the middle and altered a few down, but sticking to my guns on certainly the higher attainers, as I have tons of evidence to back up estimates, and they are exactly the same results as in the previous 2 years (at the top end)
  18. mistermanager

    mistermanager New commenter

    After 'sleeping on it' I have to agree... This is a moment in time and ultimately every school is in the same boat. For the sake of a handful of students, it isn't worth the hassle.. I do feel sorry for the 'students of 2020', and I feel they may suffer from having that label when applying for jobs in the future.
  19. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    See I don’t think they will. Because (as someone who worked in recruitment) we as teachers can overestimate the importance of GCSEs to employers- certainly beyond Maths and English.
    mistermanager likes this.
  20. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    In general, once you've got your place on whatever you do at 16+, nobody is likely to care much about the GCSEs ever again, except where there's a formal requirement for maths/English (and science for primary teachers). It's not something we like to admit in secondary schools, in particular because we need the kids to think the GCSEs are important because otherwise half of them won't make any effort with them.
    ajrowing and mistermanager like this.

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