Assessment Commission report: my top 5 points

The cat is out of the bag. This week the frustratingly overdue report from the Assessment Commission into assessment without levels was leaked via Warwick Mansell and it nearly broke twitter, such was the excitement over its contents. Keen to head the charge, I skimmed through it and tweeted some key points. But Harry Fletcher-Wood was already on the case. He carried out a more thorough dissection and hit us with a barrage of tweets followed by a ridiculously quickly written and excellent summary. He’s already covered all the key aspects which just leaves me to countdown my top 5 points from the report and enjoy the warm glow of satisfaction derived from the knowledge that many of their recommendations match what I’ve been tweeting, blogging and banging on about for the past year.

So, here are my top 5:

5) “Levels also used a ‘best fit’ model, which meant that a pupil could have serious gaps in their knowledge and understanding, but still be placed within the level.” (p8)

Yet many if not most schools are implementing systems that are placing pupils into best-fit bands, which have little to do with teaching and learning and everything to do with accountability. Yeah, I’m looking at you Emerging, Developing, Secure. It’s time to take an honest, objective look at these systems and ask the question: “Is this really assessment without levels?” 

4) “The word mastery is increasingly appearing in assessment systems and in discussions about assessment. Unfortunately, it is used in a number of different ways and there is a risk of confusion if it is not clear which meaning is intended.” (p11).

Call me old fashioned but I reckon it probably is best to work out what mastery means before we attempt to assess it.

3) “Progress became synonymous with moving on to the next level, but progress can involve developing deeper or wider understanding, not just moving on to work of greater difficulty. Sometimes progress is simply about consolidation.” (p7).

Just that: sometimes progress is simply about consolidation. Progress is neither a race nor is it linear, and we need to stop devising systems that treat it as such. 

2)” The starting point of any assessment policy should be the school’s principles of assessment.” (p20)

It does not start with the tracking system!

1) “More frequent collection of assessment data may not only be a waste of time, but could actually be damaging if actions are taken based on spurious or unreliable interpretations. It could also encourage a rapid-but-superficial approach to learning.” (p26).

Yes! We need assessment for learning, not assessment of learning. If we adopt systems of assessment that involve the collection of data every few weeks we’ll continue to repeat the mistake of the past whereby a) teachers may be tempted to fabricate data in order to ‘prove’ progress, and b) pupils may be pushed on before consolidating their knowledge. Ultimately no one wins. Maybe, just maybe, progress measures themselves are at the heart of the problem

So, that’s the key points I’ve taken from the report. I really recommend you read it, digest it, and look at your own systems through the prism of its guidance. Hopefully by this time next year we’ll actually start assessing without levels.

Happy holidays!

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13 thoughts on “Assessment Commission report: my top 5 points

  1. Mike
    on August 1, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    I thought the whole was to put the children into year group bands of accessible knowledge. Isn't this what the whole edifice is built on? Some clever person from the US or Singapore thinks this is the way forward. Put simply isn't this the idea behind the (is it Singaporean or Chines Maths teaching), everyone moves on together. It is also signalled by the government's desire for children who do not get the required level in the Yr6 sats to retake it in Yr 7. And there's still the question of how many children will need to pass the new sats tests at the 100% and the perhaps other levels 110%, 120% etc before the schools are subject to failing status etc.

  2. James Pembroke
    on August 1, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    I was referring to putting pupils into bands based on % objective achieved, eg. 1-33% achieved = emerging; 34-66% = developing; 67-100% = secure. Common approaches but too broad and no benefit to pupils.

  3. James Pembroke
    on August 1, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    Regarding your comment about SATS results, do you mean scaled score of 100?

  4. James Pembroke
    on August 1, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    We know that scaled score of 100 will be approx set at 4b level and the floor standard is for 85% to reach this new expected standard. A VA floor will also be set alongside this tough new attainment measure.

  5. Mike
    on August 2, 2015 at 8:18 am

    It's best fit again presumably otherwise it becomes unmanageable I guess. Especially if you're monitoring those who didn't manage last years objectives who presumably can't be called emerging in a new year. Quite apart from this who have already achieved mastery half way through the year. Classes just aren't that homogenous. This tick box of objectives had an earlier incarnation in Primary about ten years ago no more manageable now than then.

  6. Mike
    on August 2, 2015 at 8:20 am

    Yes I guess I do but the idea still stands will there be a demand for a certain percentage at 110 or 120 is still looking at level 5 and level 6.
    Still the question of whether the 85% pass will be adjusted for small cohorts?

  7. Mike
    on August 2, 2015 at 8:26 am

    So we return to a best fit summative assessment of 4b after all this individualised recording of what children are beginning to understand, have developed, have mastered. Why not just stop numericising it and pass on this record of their understanding to the next stage in their educational development? Is education not a continuum.

  8. James Pembroke
    on August 2, 2015 at 8:28 am

    % high achievers will be one of the KPIs. We have no idea of thresholds or whether it'll be based on percentile rank. As for small cohorts, significance tests will take into account the size of cohort. Historically the DfE have not applied floor standards to cohorts smaller than 11 pupils.

  9. James Pembroke
    on August 2, 2015 at 8:34 am

    They're simply saying that the expected standard will be set at a level of difficulty similar to of a 4b now, the aim being to increase expectations at KS2 in order to improve pupils chances at GCSE. They could have kept levels in place for this but there were clear issues with levels being used for assessment in between key stages. There should also be a teacher assessment which will give opportunity to record pupil's mastery.

  10. James Pembroke
    on August 2, 2015 at 8:37 am

    There won't be a best-fit summative judgement from tests as pupils will gain a scaled score from 70-130 (or similar). The best-fit comes from the performance descriptors (teacher assessment) and there was a lot of opposition to that (see Michael Tidd). The performance descriptors are now being redrafted but think we need to be careful what we wish for – teacher assessment is at risk of being scrapped.

    Yes education is a continuum.

    Off on holiday. Over and out.

  11. Mike
    on August 2, 2015 at 9:06 am

    But ofsted have.

  12. James Pembroke
    on August 2, 2015 at 9:15 am

    No they haven't. Floor standards apply to cohorts >= 11. They will publish data for cohorts >=6 but that's a separate issue relating to data protection, not floor standards.

  13. James Pembroke
    on August 2, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Paragraph 5.6

    Also, LAs use EPAS system to identify schools below floor. This system has a built in filter in the floor standard report, which excludes schools with fewer than 11 pupils. If Ofsted are claiming a school to be below floor that has a cohort of fewer than 11 then they're breaking their own rules.

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