Memorandum submitted by Association of School and College Leaders

(ASCL)

A The present situation

 

1 Assessment in Britain requires a radical review. In England, young people take externally set and marked examinations at the ages of 7, 11, 14, 16, 17 and 18. The system is at breaking point as more and more examinations have been added to an already over-examined system. The total number of examination papers sat by young people in schools and colleges each year in national curriculum tests at 7, 11 and 14, GCSE examinations, GNVQs, AS and A2 examinations and key skills tests is over 30 million. No other country has so many examinations, taking place so frequently in the life of a young person. Whilst Wales and Scotland are in a slightly better position than England, their examination and assessment systems are also heavily over loaded.

 

2 The ASCL paper Examinations and Assessment (SHA, 2002), stated:

We do not argue against assessment. Far from it. High quality assessment is an important part of good teaching. [But] the purposes of assessment have become confused. This has happened largely because external examinations have assumed too much importance in the system. Examinations have become the master of education, not the servant.

 

3 The Tomlinson report, published in 2005, recognised the problem of too many examinations and advocated greater reliance on in-course assessment by teachers, recommending the use of chartered assessors, as proposed by ASCL [SHA] since 2002. The Daugherty report on assessment in Wales also advocated a reduction in assessment and the Wales Assembly Government has put this into place, although the replacement system is proving unnecessarily bureaucratic.

 

4 The current problems on assessment may be summarised as follows:

Young people are subjected to far too many external examinations. These take place more frequently than in other countries. The relentless pressure of external examinations can interfere with the enjoyment young people take in learning, can lead to excessive levels of stress, and in extreme cases to mental health problems.

Schools and colleges spend too much valuable curriculum time in directly preparing for, and conducting, external examinations.

The purpose of external examinations is confused between diagnostic, summative and qualification (for the examinee), component of performance management (for the teacher), accountability (for the school) and indicator of national achievement (for the nation).

The examination system is very costly (see paragraphs 5-12 below).

The complexity of the examination system has led to concerns about the accuracy and consistency of marking and results, with increasing numbers of re-marks being sought at GCSE, AS and A levels.

It is becoming very difficult to find sufficiently qualified and experienced staff to be the markers, moderators and examiners of the external examination system. As a result, some papers are being marked abroad.

There is a lack of trust in the professional ability of teachers to carry out rigorous internal assessment.

 

5 The cost of external examinations is excessive and uses too high a proportion of school and college budgets. The cost comprises three elements:

Examination fees

Administration time (carried out by support staff since September 2003)

Invigilation (carried out by support staff since September 2005)

 

6 The PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report on examination costs, commissioned by QCA in 2003, published in 2005 a figure of 610 million as the cost of the examination system. ASCL has carried out its own surveys from time to time and our figures suggest that the cost is at least that figure. The costs are broadly consistent between institutions of comparable size.


 


Table: the cost of the English examination system

Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers

 

 

7 Since the PwC survey costs have risen further. ASCL does not have aggregated figures (though these may be available from the DfES) but it is clear from a small sample of schools and colleges that the direct cost to institutions has increased. Some examples are:

 

8 An average sized sixth form college in the West Midlands with roughly 1300 full time students spends 300,000 on examination fees, invigilation, and administrative staff employed solely for examinations work. In larger sixth form colleges, the cost of external examinations is now well in excess of 400,000 - often the second highest item on the college budget after staffing.

 

9 A large tertiary FE college in the North West has an annual expenditure for examination fees alone of approximately 650,000, and employs three dedicated staff at a cost of 75,000. The principal estimates that about 4 per cent of the college annual budget of 20million goes on external assessment.

 

10 In a 1500-pupil comprehensive school with a sixth form in Wales, the cost of examination fees is approximately 100,000. The cost of administration of the external examinations is over 17,000, and the cost of support staff for invigilation is approximately 13,000. A total of 130,000.

 

11 The cost of examination fees in a typical 11-16 school of 960 students in the Home Counties is 60,000.

 

12 None of these figures includes the opportunity cost of the time of staff whose main responsibilities lie elsewhere, though teachers, heads of department, and senior leaders all devote a proportion of their time to setting up, supervising and analysing external examinations, and supporting students through them.

B Tests, examinations and their purpose

 

13 The purpose of tests and examinations has become confused with school accountability and the performance management of teachers. The same assessments are used for the following purposes:

Diagnostic assessment

Formative assessment

Summative assessment

Evaluative assessment

Ipsative assessment

They are also used for:

a component of the qualifications structure

monitoring progress

teachers' performance-related pay

performance management of teachers

school and college performance tables

accountability of schools, colleges, local authorities, the Learning and Skills Council and the DfES

meeting national targets

 

14 Of the last group of seven purposes, five are evaluative, demonstrating how the government has skewed the assessment system from its prime purposes of diagnostic and formative towards the evaluative. The assessment of the work of young people has become primarily for the accountability of schools and colleges, rather than to be of value to the students themselves.

 

15 The use of assessment for learning has improved the quality and extent of formative assessment, encouraging students to think more about their own learning and helping teachers to mould their teaching style more effectively to the needs of the students. Assessment for learning has become an important element in student voice, in that it provides students with a structure in which to feed back to their teachers information on the effectiveness of their learning. It is therefore a major contributor to personalising learning.

 

16 Teachers have been criticised for teaching to the test but, if the system is geared to constantly monitoring progress and judging teachers and institutions by outcomes, it is hardly surprising that the focus is on ensuring that students produce the best results. Particularly at key stage 2, this results in over-preparation for the tests in May of year 6, followed by a period with much less emphasis on the tested subjects. By September, when the children enter year 7, they have had four months of this post-test phase - hardly the best preparation for the start of secondary education. Many secondary school leaders believe that this is a major contributory factor in the so-called key stage 3 dip in performance.

 

17 Intelligent accountability for schools and colleges is not helped by the use of test scores to produce league tables, nor by the way in which the government is trying to produce a single measure of accountability - the contextualized value added measure - as a precise indicator of the effectiveness of a complex institution such as a school or college. Schools and colleges expect to be held to account for their performance, but measures should not claim greater rigour than they can stand and confidence intervals should always be included.

 

18 By producing league tables of performance at age 14 and by using key stage 3 test results as an indicator for Ofsted inspections, the importance of key stage 3 tests is magnified unnecessarily. The critical test results in secondary education are at age 16 and 18 - no employer or university has ever asked an applicant what they scored in key stage 3 tests. A check on the progress of 14 year olds in the major subjects is necessary for schools' planning and self-evaluation, but this could be achieved without the use of an elaborate series of external tests.

 

19 In a 14 to 19 qualifications system, the importance of GCSE at age 16 will also be played down from the huge external examination industry that it has become. In its early papers on 14 to 19, the government itself described the future role of the GCSE as a progress check and we agree with this as the 14 to 19 system matures.

 

20 Nobody criticises A level teachers for teaching to the test, because the test is widely respected and the syllabus provides an excellent education for the students following it. Schools want to focus on developing deep and sustained learning with assessment systems supporting that process and this is possible at A level.

 

21 ASCL does not support the introduction of the A* grade at A level, believing that there is adequate information available to highly selective universities to distinguish between the best candidates on the basis of their module grades, their raw marks and their wider achievements, information on all of which is available to admissions tutors.

 

22 The progress of the education system as a whole could be monitored more efficiently and effectively. The aggregation of individual test scores creates a high-stakes testing system in which the pressure is bound to create a false picture of progress. National curriculum testing should not therefore be used to monitor progress towards the achievement of national targets. Instead, random sampling tests should be carried out by a new body, similar to the former Assessment of Performance Unit (APU). Monitoring of progress should be by national sampling, not by national saturation, as we have at present.

C Chartered assessors: using the professional judgement of teachers

 

23 At all levels of external assessment, greater trust should be placed in the professionalism of teachers who have, in recent years, become more rigorous and skilful at assessment. Internal summative assessment should play a greater part in the examination system.

 

24 National curriculum tests at 11 and 14, GCSE, AS and A level examinations should rely more on in-course assessment through the professional judgement of teachers.

 

25 A problem with relying more on internal assessment by teachers is that there is a lack of public trust in the professional ability of teachers to carry out such assessment rigorously. A change in the balance between external and internal assessment must take place in a way that maintains public confidence in the qualifications system.

 

26 ASCL has proposed the establishment of a cohort of chartered assessors, a system of in-course assessment that will produce no loss of rigour in examining and will thus secure public confidence. Chartered assessors will be experienced teachers, externally accredited to carry out in-course assessment to external standards. The chartered assessors will be responsible for carrying out or overseeing rigorous in-course assessment that will form a substantial proportion of externally awarded qualifications. It will be the responsibility of the chartered examiner to mark and grade work at the standard of the external qualification to which it contributes.

 

27 Chartered assessors would develop expertise in formative assessment and assessment for learning, as well as understanding and enforcing rigorous standards in tests leading to the award of qualifications. Assessors from one school might also support another school where colleagues were inexperienced in assessment or where there were problems in teacher recruitment and retention.

 

28 ASCL proposals for chartered assessors are being taken forward by the Institute of Educational Assessors (IEA) and the use of chartered assessors is envisaged in the current development of 14-19 diplomas.

 

29 Precedents exist for the role of chartered assessors, both in the qualifications for teachers who assess vocational courses, and in the accreditation awarded to modern languages teachers to carry out A level and GCSE speaking tests. Teachers apply for accreditation and undergo training before they carry out oral examinations or in-course assessment to external standards.

 

30 In-course assessment, if carried out rigorously and to external standards, gives a truer picture of a student's standard of attainment than an external examination taken on a particular day. A combination of externally set tests and internally set work would form the basis for the assessment.

 

31 One way in which chartered assessors could be deployed has been described by the chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). In a speech in May 2006, Dr Ken Boston stated[1], 'no other country devotes as much time and expertise to developing measures of student progress'. He went on to outline ways in which the system could be re-balanced to rely less on external testing without sacrificing rigour in the assessment process:

"If teacher assessment were taken to mean that teachers should set their own tests, and decide on that basis whether a child is, say, a level 4 in KS2 English or a C in GCSE Maths, then I personally would reject such a proposition - not because of any lack of faith in the professionalism of teachers, but because of the impossibility of being able to strike a common standard nationally across all the classrooms in this country.

"If teacher assessment meant, however, that teachers in primary schools and in the early years of secondary education had access to a national bank of standard-referenced tests and examinations which had been trialled and piloted by test developers and awarding bodies under QCA regulation; that the tests and examinations were administered within a specific window of time; that the papers were marked using a mark scheme on which teachers had been trained; that their marks were externally and independently audited by chartered assessors belonging to the Institute of Educational Assessors; and that the system for doing so was demonstrably as rigorous and robust as the current system in maintaining standards nationally and producing valid and reliable data on national performance - then it might well be a better process than the current one, and something which the QCA could recommend to Government."

 

32 ASCL strongly supports the approach being recommended by Dr Boston. Furthermore ASCL believes that unless there is recognition of the role that chartered assessors can play, the delivery of the proposed 14 to19 qualifications framework will not be viable.

 

33 The proposal to create chartered assessors will raise the status of teachers and of in-course assessment in schools and colleges. It will improve the quality of school- and college-based assessment and thus contribute to the raising of standards in schools and colleges. It will provide a new step on the continuum of professional development for teachers. It will provide important professional development opportunities for aspiring classroom teachers. It will make just-in-time testing more viable and reduce the length of the examination period each summer. Above all, it will make the examinations system more manageable whilst retaining the credibility and standards of the external examination system.

D Progress measures

 

34 The use of pupil progress measures, as proposed by the Secretary of State in 2007, is in principle a move in the right direction of intelligent accountability for schools. Good teachers measure the performance of individual pupils on progress made and it is right that the same principle should be used to measure the performance of schools. However, the proposals as set out in the consultation paper will not have the desired effect. There are several specific aspects about which ASCL has major concerns. The response of ASCL to the consultation is appended at Annex A, which includes an alternative proposal from ASCL for the operation of the progress measure so that it acts as an incentive to schools to raise the achievement of all pupils and not just the group of pupils defined by the threshold measure in the consultation paper.

E Key stage 3 review

 

35 ASCL strongly supports the key stage 3 review proposals from the QCA, but believes that the purposes of the review in re-thinking and broadening the curriculum may be threatened by the continuing narrowness of the key stage 3 tests.

F Diplomas

 

36 The assessment systems of the proposed diplomas are as yet not fully defined. Experience of previous attempts to introduce quasi-vocational qualifications, for example GNVQ, lead ASCL members to be concerned that the assessment of the diplomas may be too much like those of GCSE and A level. Effective vocationally-oriented courses cannot be assessed in the same way as academic courses. Much of their purpose and value is lost if they are forced to be so assessed. The diplomas should be different from GCSE and A levels and their assessment should fit the purposes of the qualification, not a pre-determined single view of external testing. Parts of a diploma course, such as functional skills, may be most appropriately tested by external tests (quite likely using ICT). But most other aspects should rely on teacher assessment, using chartered assessors as outlined above.

G Systemic reform

 

37 ASCL welcomes the effect of the workforce reform agreement in transferring examination invigilation from teachers to support staff. This is having a beneficial effect in reducing the burdens on teachers.

 

38 ASCL also welcomes the modernization agenda being carried out by the National Assessment Authority (NAA), which is seeking to streamline the work of the examinations office and reduce the bureaucratic burden in that area.

H University entrance tests

 

39 ASCL is concerned at the proliferation of university entrance tests. It is extremely difficult, especially for maintained schools and colleges, to prepare students for the many tests that now exist and thus we believe that these tests discriminate against some students and act against the policy of widening participation in higher education.

 

 

June 2007


 

 

Annex A

 

 

Making Good Progress

 

Response of the Association of School and College Leaders

A Introduction

 

1 The Association of School and College Leaders represents 13,000 members of the leadership teams of colleges, maintained and independent schools throughout the UK. This places the association in a unique position to see the progress measure from the viewpoint of the leaders of both secondary schools and colleges.

 

2 ASCL welcomes the opening of a debate by the Secretary of State on progress measures. Helping every student to make good progress is the function of the education system and so consideration of policies aimed specifically at supporting that is long overdue.

 

3 The use of pupil progress measures is in principle a move in the right direction of intelligent accountability for schools. Good teachers measure the performance of individual pupils on progress made and it is right that the same principle should be used to measure the performance of schools.

 

4 However, the proposals as set out will not have the desired effect. There are several specific aspects about which ASCL has major concerns. The association looks forward to a period of consultation and piloting in which the best features of the proposals can be developed and the worst amended or dropped.

 

5 To support such a process an alternative measure is proposed in section E of this document which the association believes would command much greater support, avoid the faults of the measure proposed in Making Good Progress, and would better lend itself to target-setting at all levels.

B Assessment and testing

 

6 The document's clear statement of assessment for learning and endorsement of it is welcome. ASCL shares the belief that this approach, always used by good teachers to some extent and in some form, can be usefully extended; and has for some time championed it. However, it should be remembered that high-stakes, externally marked tests are antipathetic to assessment for learning. For testing to be supportive of learning it must be kept closer to home, with frequent assessments (of all kinds) devised or chosen by the teacher and marked by the teacher.

 

7 The association welcomes a move away from age-linked testing. The further idea of "testing when ready" is also welcome. Sadly, what the paper sets out is not that but rather a proliferation of the existing testing regime. Modern technology can surely lead us to aspire to forms of testing that enable students to be tested whenever they are ready, not on a given day in an examination hall in six months time. To propose tests on the current model, but more often, is to miss an opportunity to devise something better for our children, and potentially to exaggerate the faults and costs of the present system.

 

8 In both of these areas the paper is hidebound by the prevailing orthodoxy of testing, which has prevented any genuinely creative ideas.

C Personalised learning

 

9 ASCL also welcomes the renewed emphasis on personalised learning. It is closely bound to assessment for learning, and is again not new; good teachers, and good schools and colleges, have always tried to personalise their offering to students.

 

10 This is recognised in Making Good Progress and in the 2020 Vision report, one of the good features of which was its recognition of the good practice already in the current education system. The present document somewhat loses sight of that by extracting (on page 14) a list of approaches that schools "will need to adopt" as if they were not all in the usual repertoire of school behaviour. Some may need more emphasis in some schools.

 

11 The "personalised classroom" as set out in the first paragraph of page 16 is an attractive prospect, but for it to be realised it is imperative that the teacher not only has ready access to the necessary data but also can rely on it. The present high-stakes testing regime and the weakness of the national curriculum tests prevent any such reliance. Many schools make use of CAT, Midyis or other diagnostic tests for example because they do not feel able to rely on the National Curriculum tests, which were devised as summative tests, as a good baseline for predicting the future performance of each pupil.

 

12 A more rapid response to pupils who are falling behind is clearly welcome, provided that that does not translate into ever more frequent, stress-inducing, external tests. Our young people have become the most tested in the world, and their stress levels have risen markedly as that has happened. There is now a need to take greater care with their mental health and normal development.

 

13 The document does recognise at this point that teachers are already skilled at discovering the progress of their individual pupils and tailoring their courses to their needs.

 

14 ASCL welcomes the clear statement that personalisation does not mean devising a separate plan for each student, and the renewed promise of greater flexibility in the secondary curriculum to allow schools room to be more creative in devising programmes suited to their particular students.

 

15 There is a contradiction between the idea of personalised learning, which recognises the different needs and abilities of each person, and the setting of systemic targets, which presupposes that all young people should ideally travel the same path at the same rate.

 

16 The suggestion in the 2020 Vision report that students from disadvantaged backgrounds should receive additional support is welcome, and the document does no more than reiterate this. However, at one of the DfES presentations to stakeholders this was extended to an intention to provide ten hours of individual tuition to students not "on trajectory", possibly at home, at weekends or in the school holidays - provided by local authorities. ASCL cannot welcome this interpretation of the 2020 suggestion. It would be very expensive, costing far too much to administer as well as overlooking the possibility of joint work with small groups of students in similar states of learning and with similar needs. It would be very unlikely to be good value for money.

 

17 If additional funds are available for this type of support they should be delegated to schools, which are closer to the individual students and will be better able to apply them than local authorities.

D Measures and targets

 

18 ASCL strongly opposes the proposals in section five of the document. In this section the proposals go badly wrong in ways that would ensure that the good intentions of the earlier sections could not be realised.

 

19 First, measures framed as "the percentage of children who..." are bad measures of progress. They concentrate the attention of teachers, schools, partnerships, local authorities, inspectors, government and the media on those children on the borderline of making the grade when we should all be interested in the progress of all children.

 

20 Sensible measures in this area should look at the distance travelled by each child related to how far we might reasonably expect a child with that starting point and that set of attributes (disadvantages for example) to travel in the time.

 

21 Secondly, the proposal that every child should be measured against an improvement of two national curriculum levels is absurdly crude. It may be easy to understand, but will mislead most of those who see it, and will create new perverse incentives as damaging as those caused by the some of the present measures. For every complex and difficult problem there is a simple and straightforward solution ... that is wrong.

 

22 That a child who is badly behind at the start of a key stage, a child who is a high flyer, a child with a strong leaning towards or away from a particular subject, a child with every sort of support, a child with a profound disability, a child with severe social disadvantage, a child simultaneously learning English, a child who learnt English at a previous stage should all somehow move on two levels bears no examination. In fact, any research that has been done into these and other interrelated factors is ignored here.

 

23

The information that is set out in Making Good Progress points to a further weakness in the proposals; that they would systematically favour selective schools and other schools that have a more able than average intake. This is illustrated clearly by looking at key stage 2 to key stage 3 mathematics:

This diagram is highly simplified, some children make greater or less progress than indicated, but the arrows show the most common movements during key stage 3. Note that on the whole those children who start at lower levels mostly do not make two NC levels of progress, whilst those who start at higher levels mostly do. The effect at school level would be to create a measure that would imply that a school with a 'good' intake is doing better than a less favoured school, almost independently of the excellence of the schools themselves.

 

24 Thirdly, the key stages are of different lengths, and the national curriculum levels not designed to be of equal size. So it is inevitable that, quite apart from the many individual differences between children, a target of two levels per key stage will be much harder to reach at some stages than at others. Figures in the document itself make it quite clear that this is the case. Adopting such a set of measures would therefore invite media attention of the most unwelcome and ill-informed kind: "only 30% of children make acceptable progress in English between age 11 and 14", for example.

 

25 Encouraging such misunderstanding cannot be to the advantage of children, schools or the government itself. Many children will be given the false impression that they have "failed", when in fact they have made perfectly normal progress. Secondary schools will be painted as failing their pupils even when they have made above average progress. And the government will be accused of allowing a systematic failure of education at key stage 3.

 

26 Targets framed in this way will set up new perverse incentives. Students who part-way through a key stage have already clearly made their two level improvement, or who clearly cannot do so, will not be targeted as intensively as those who may or may not make that improvement.

 

27 A two key stage improvement may be an appropriate aspirational target for many individual students, but it is not appropriate for all, and it is certainly not appropriate as an accountability measure for teachers, schools or government at key stage 3.

 

28 Fourthly, the relationship between the national curriculum tests and GCSEs is not close and not well understood. The document seeks views as to how a measure based on a percentage of those moving up two levels on these two incommensurable scales should be formulated. It should not be formulated at all. Any such formulation will fail to measure anything meaningful and will create perverse incentives of the worst kind.

 

29 Fifthly, this whole section is predicated on the national curriculum tests as robust and reliable measures of attainment. These tests are better now than in their early days but are still not capable of bearing the weight of all the many uses to which they are already put. It is not sensible to erect a further edifice of measures and targets on them.

 

30 Finally, this section asserts that these new measures should be added to all the existing measures and not replace anything. This is simply wrong. The English education system already has more tests and measures than any comparable system, a larger proportion of scarce resources is diverted from actual learning into setting tests, preparing for them, administering them, analysing the results, reporting the results, and dealing with the inevitable misunderstanding of them by children, parents, governors, the media and others.

 

31 The assertion that nothing can ever be removed from a bureaucratic system does not sit well with recent attempts by government to reduce bureaucracy and improve the intelligence of accountability systems. In this case it rests upon a separate assertion, made at page two, that it is the elaborate system of tests, targets and performance tables that has driven up standards in recent years. No evidence is brought to support that idea, which has taken on the aspect of a dogma. Indeed, on the very same page of the document it is undermined by the assertion that it is the government's increased investment in education that has had the beneficial effect. This seems a more likely explanation: our schools are better led, are better staffed, have better facilities and are better resourced than before, and this has been reflected in better progress. Pupils and teachers are also more experienced at the tests, which is bound to have had a beneficial effect on scores nationally.

 

32 ASCL urges as a matter of general principle that initiatives should not be taken, in a system already at full stretch, without indicating what it is that they should replace. In this case progress measures are welcome but must replace some of the alternative measures that have now had their day, and done whatever good they may have been able to do. There are plenty of candidates...

E An alternative measure

 

33 As already stated ASCL welcomes the idea of a measure of progress. As a constructive response to Making Good Progress what is set out in this section is an outline of such a measure that would command the support of school leaders.

 

34 Any such measure should avoid the perverse incentives inherent in "the percentage of students who..." but should depend on the progress made by all students. It should also intelligently reflect the starting point of the student in question.

 

35 What is needed as a first step is a more complete and careful analysis of a cohort of students, say those that took the various tests in 2005 that will give an expected outcome for each student based upon the starting point. This will also answer the question, left open in Making Good Progress, of what progress can be expected between key stage 3 and GCSE. What ASCL proposes is the use of this statistical relationship as a baseline for expected performance against which performance in future years can be judged.

 

36 Thus each student's result can be compared to the expected outcome and a positive or negative 'residual' determined. These residuals can readily be aggregated to give an average for a class, school, local authority and the country as a whole.

 

37 This should be familiar as the approach taken by value-added measures. Like them it would avoid perverse incentives and be based upon careful research into the actual performance of real students.

 

38 Traditional value-added measures have the drawback that they are cohort referenced*, meaning that they relate an individual or a group with the averages for the year group to which they belong. This has some disadvantages. The individual's score is partly determined by the performance of the peer group. Such measures do not really reflect change from year to year; a teacher, department, school, partnership or local authority can improve in performance but find that that is not reflected because others have improved too. And in particular they hide improvement in the system as a whole - the average residual for the whole group must by definition be zero.

 

39 So what ASCL proposes is different in a crucial respect: the performance of future students should be compared not to their own peers in their own year-group, but to the fixed 2005 reference group. In the sense in which we are using the term here this would make the measure norm referenced* rather than cohort referenced and therefore avoid the drawbacks outlined in the previous paragraph. It would allow for year to year comparison of the performance at all scales from the departmental to the national.

 

40 In particular any improvement would be reflected in the measure which could thus be used for any target-setting. The average residual for the nation as a whole would no longer necessarily be zero; if the education system improves new cohorts of students will do better than the 2005 group and this will be reflected in a positive residual. These residuals are expressed as fractions of a National Curriculum level (or GCSE grade) and are therefore relatively easy to understand if not to calculate.

 

41 There is at least one precedent for such an approach in the SAT (formerly Scholastic Aptitude Test), widely used and respected in the USA. Before 1941 this test was cohort referenced but after that date comparison was made each year with the cohort of 1941 thus making the test norm referenced.*

 

42 It is not likely that in the more rapidly changing modern world a reference group could be retained for more than sixty years, and the measure could be rebased from time to time, but it is envisaged that the same base should be used for, say, a decade at a time in order for systemic progress to be observed.

 

43 As far as the secondary phase of education is concerned ASCL suggests that the main measure of progress should be that between key stage 2 and GCSE. This reflects the most common patterns of secondary organisation with 11-16 and 11-18 schools. In such schools measures involving key stage 3 are clearly subsidiary and should be primarily for internal use rather than used to rate the school as a whole.

 

44 ASCL will be pleased to help develop these ideas further as part of its commitment to more intelligent accountability.

F Progression premium

 

45 This idea is particularly unwelcome. Teachers and their leaders are motivated by a desire to do right by those in their charge, not by a desire for a bonus. Such a premium, especially one built upon a measure that lacks full professional confidence, would either reward in a capricious fashion or would systematically reward those that need no such reward (ie those schools teaching the best supported pupils with the fewest disadvantages).

 

46 ASCL would remind ministers that the School Achievement Award was scrapped for very good reasons. They should not seek to reintroduce a similar, but equally flawed, reward.

 

47 ASCL strongly suggests that this idea be dropped forthwith.

G Conclusion

 

48 ASCL welcomes the basic idea of Making Good Progress and its aspirations. School and college leaders have always striven to help all their students achieve as much as they can.

 

49 However, the actual proposals contained in the document, especially those in section five, would not help in any way to do this, and would in fact do far more harm than good.

 

50 ASCL would strongly suggest that the whole of sections five and six, and some of section three as outlined above, should be set aside. There is a need for some genuinely new thinking about these important matters so that the whole system of assessment, testing, reporting and accountability can be amended to better serve the worthy aims of Making Good Progress.

 

51 ASCL stands ready to contribute to such thinking and trusts that the major amendments proposed above should be made before the pilot begins.

 

Association of School and College Leaders

January 2007

 

 

 

 

*Thanks to Professor Dylan Wiliam, Deputy Director of the London Institute of Education for the explication of the difference between cohort referenced and norm referenced, and for drawing attention to the norm referenced nature of the SAT. Norm referenced is often used as opposed to criterion referenced to describe measures that would more properly be called cohort referenced. To be clear: in this paper norm referenced means comparing the performance of a child or group of children with a fixed reference group (say those that took tests in 2005) whilst cohort referenced means comparing a child or group of children with those taking the tests in that year.

 

 

Reference:

Wiliam, D. (2007). Balancing dilemmas: traditional theories and new applications. In A. Havnes & L. McDowell (Eds.), Balancing dilemmas in assessment and learning in contemporary education (pp. 269-283). London, UK: Routledge. (To be published later this year).

 



[1] Speech by Ken Boston at the launch of the Institute of Educational Assessors, 9 May 2006.