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Your B is an E

Discussion in 'Education news' started by Scintillant, Feb 27, 2016.

  1. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    One for you @Vince-Ulam


    In one of the most comprehensive studies into A-level standards, mathematics experts at Loughborough University judged 66 A-level scripts from the 1960s, 1990s and the current decade.

    They found a grade ‘B’ today is equivalent to an ‘E’ in the 60s, but found no evidence that standards have declined since the 1990s.

    Researchers applied a comparative judgement technique that enables direct comparison of mathematical performance across different examinations – experts judged the better mathematician from randomly selected pairs of papers. Bias was eliminated by re-typesetting questions and re-writing answers in the same hand.

    Dr Ian Jones in Loughborough University’s Mathematics Education Centre led the study. He said:

    “There has been ongoing concern that maths A-levels are getting easier. Whilst our study does show a decline in standards between the 1960s and 1990s, there is no evidence to suggest there has been further decline in the last 20 years.

    “Our study has overcome limitations of previous research in this area, making it the most robust of its kind. With debate continuing about the standard of maths exams it’s important the decision makers have the best evidence available to them.”

    Dr Jones and his team have made the comparative judgement tool publically available online. Take a look and judge for yourself whether children of the 60s, 90s or 21st century are the better mathematicians.
    petenewton likes this.
  2. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    I'll begin and end my comments on this 'study' by pointing out that the website it uses is administered by one of its authors, Chris Wheadon.
    Scintillant likes this.
  3. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    LOL, knew you'd like it.
  4. dumpty

    dumpty Star commenter

    I remember Channel 4 doing an experiment where 3 girls and a boy, fresh from Grade A passes in GSCE A levels were asked to sit a 1970s maths A level. Two girls got unclassified, one received F and the boy an E.

    The girls walked off when told the results saying they had been tired.....the boy said he could not grasp being asked to think about different ways of solving maths, that he was used to questions directing him clearly to a method and so answer. To his great credit he said it was obvious he had no broad understanding of maths and felt he had been conned into thinking he was smarter than he was.

    Ch 4, wanting to prove the opposite, played it all down and added it was not scientific and just for fun.

    Pretty much how OFSTED and the entire profession still kid themselves and say, as in the OP's link, 'there is no evidence standards are falling'.....
  5. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    Have Standards Risen?
    Yet more stimulating work from CEM and Robert Coe

    On one level, my analysis is quite bleak: standards have not risen; teaching has not improved; research that has tried to support improvement has generally not succeeded; even identifying which schools and teachers are good is more difficult than we thought. That is our experience, so far. Recognising this is important, not because I enjoy puncturing inflated assertions of success and what seem to me to be complacent and uncritical claims of ‘fools' gold’ improvement (although, I confess, I do), but because I think it is time we stopped repeating the same mistakes.

    Have educational standards really risen?
    This is inevitably controversial; my answer will surely offend many people who have invested energy and resources into trying to raise standards. Those who have invested huge energy and resources may be hugely offended. So why do I feel the need to say things that I know will offend them?
    I want to be clear that I do not mean to imply any criticism of teachers or anyone else working in education. I was a teacher myself and I know how hard teachers work, how committed they are to doing the best for, and getting the best from, their students, no matter what challenges they face.
    However, if it is true that despite the huge efforts we have made to improve education not much has changed, there are important lessons for us to learn. One would be that effort and good intentions are not enough; we have to work smarter, not just harder. Another would be that we must look carefully at the strategies we have been using to improve, and replace them with some different ones. A third lesson is that a more critical and realistic approach to evaluation may be required. An uncritical belief that things are improving may be comforting, but is ultimately self-deceiving and unproductive. In short, I find it hard to see how we can make real improvement until we accept the unpalatable truth that we have so far failed to achieve it.

    Unfortunately, a clear and definitive answer to the question of whether standards have risen is not possible. The best I think we can say is that overall there probably has not been much change. However, we are limited by the fact that in England there has been no systematic, rigorous collection of high-quality data on attainment that could answer the question about systemic changes in standards. And we might well disagree about what we mean by ‘standards’ or how they should be measured. The evidence we have is patchy and inadequate, but it is the best we have.
  6. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    The '60s were a different world. It is almost certainly true that A level maths exams were harder then.
    What percentage of the population were "meant" to pass A level maths then?
    In the '60s we didn't even expect many kids to stay in school long enough to get any certificates.
    A level maths was designed as an elite exam for very few people, whereas now A level maths is targetted at a rather wider cohort with an expectation of success for most of them, Our education system has been successful at playing the numbers game of getting far more students to get 16+ and post 16 qualifications.
    I have tried a quick web search to see if I could find the numbers taking A level maths in the early '60s with little success.
  7. never_expect_anything

    never_expect_anything Occasional commenter

    @phlogiston your comment made me smile. This exactly mirrors the point I've been raising recently when discussing the recent GCSE reforms! Those who say that terminal examination was a good enough assessment method back in their day often forget that, in the past, school leaving qualifications were not intended to be sat and passed by every student. Although it was well before my time, as far as I can gather, CSEs and O levels were introduced as exams at age 16 before the school leaving age was raised to 16, and furthermore, the Waddell report (1978) suggests O Levels were intended to be sat by the top 20% of the ability range, and CSEs by the next 40% (so 40% of pupils were not expected to take either qualification). Since 1989, GCSE grade A-C passes have gone up from around 40% to almost 70%, and let's be honest, pupils consider anything below a C grade as a fail (because of the pressure from adults - teachers, parents, employers, politicians...). Nowadays, everyone is expected to continue in education to age 18, and if they haven't achieved a specific standard in Maths and English, they must continue those subjects to GCSE level - in other words, everyone is expected to pass, even if it takes them more time than others.
    We seem to have gone through years of identifying and ensuring that we cater for the whole range of SEND and learning styles, which includes identifying differences in cognitive processing abilities of individual students, only to revert back to an assessment system that favours the more able students and provides little alternative or incentive for the less able... :confused:
  8. monicabilongame

    monicabilongame Star commenter

    Oddly enough, though, even the kids who didn't take CSEs or O Levels were able to read and write to a decent standard, and could do enough arithmetic to enable them to get jobs in shops using tills that didn't do all the calculations for them. They could probably sew, type, cook, do woodwork/metal work, wire up a plug, and knew enough about their own country (history and geography) to function perfectly well and feel an involved part of the community they lived in. What they didn't know they probably didn't need to know unless they were destined for jobs which required a higher level of intellectual knowledge.

    They would go to college to learn how to do engineering, plumbing, hairdressing, secretarial work etc., and might even work their way up the company learning as they went.

    A Levels were for those going on to University or Teacher Training, or possibly some sort of managerial position - or, say, a career in the BBC, GPO or Civil Service.

    Now, it would seem, everyone needs a degree just to work in Homebase.
    guinnesspuss likes this.
  9. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    Before it was outlawed by the workload agreement, I used to quite enjoy invigilating exams to see what students were doing in other subjects. One thing that particularly shocked me is how easy A level Physics had become, and A level Biology was very similar to the O level that I did.

    If you're over 40 and don't believe that exams now are easier, just find a paper for a subject that you did for A level but don't currently teach.

    That's not to say that the students find them easier, of course (although I've seen years when 48% of students have got an A in some A level subjects), because students are prepared for the exams that they're taking rather than to a consistent standard.
  10. hhhh

    hhhh Star commenter

    Back when I was at school, there were relatively few children from 'troubled' families. Pre 1960, it was rare for a parent to threaten a teacher. Children were allowed to be children. Most expected to get a job when they left school.
    Life is very different.
  11. dumpty

    dumpty Star commenter

    I think it is rather endemic in most if not all things to do with so called education and qualifications. For example, I was told it would enhance my CV if I took a TESOL course. This was basically 11 separate comprehension tests. By the end of the 2nd unit I was so outraged at how comically easy and totally useless this 'qualification' was that I just sat the tests without reading the 'learning papers'.

    I never got less than 95% in each but trust me, this was not because I knew much. Being asked 'do you need to teach adults differently from children, yes or no' was not that difficult to work out.

    Now here's how times have changed though. I know that course was a total, total waste of time and money. Yet I am being offered more interviews on the back of it. Like students today, I am being told I am super smart and obviously able to teach ESL as I have the coveted TESOL paper.

    So I don't blame the kids - although it must be so, so disappointing when they wake up and realise it was indeed a con.

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