Curriculum for Wales: Assessment
With Curriculum for Wales becoming statutory for all secondary schools from September 2023 onwards, this term will see schools putting the final touches on their arrangements. This will include how to assess and how to report to parents.
The guidance for Curriculum for Wales states that assessment is done “for three key reasons to:
- support individual learners on an ongoing, day-to-day basis
- identify, capture and reflect on individual learner progress over time
- understand group progress in order to reflect on practice.”
Regarding reporting to parents, the guidance states that “feedback should include:
- A brief summary about a learner’s progress in learning
- Information about future progression needs/next steps for the individual learner required to support their progression
- Brief advice on how parents/carers can support progression at home
- Information on a learners general health and well-being.”
The major change is that schools need to report back on progress, not attainment. But what is progress? The guidance defines progression in learning as “how a learner develops and improves their skills and knowledge over time. This means increasing their breadth and depth of knowledge, deepening their understanding, and refining their skills, all while becoming more independent and applying their learning to new situations.” The guidance does not state however how schools should report back on progress – this has been left for individual schools to decide.
At Ysgol y Creuddyn, we have adopted the following definition of progress:
That is, progress is how quickly (or how slowly) a learner’s attainment changes. Progress can also be negative (regression), to acknowledge (for example) the effect of Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve.So, to measure progress, we first need a reliable method of measuring attainment. But how do we do this? To start, we must consider the normal distribution.
When measuring something like height, weight or the ability in a specific subject, more people appear in the middle, and less people on the margins. We can see this from the statistics that WJEC publish following a series of external examinations. For example, here are some of the results from the GCSE examinations for Summer 2019 (source: WJEC).
We can see that, as a rule, less people are awarded the grades at the margins (A*, G) and more people are awarded the grades in the middle (C, D).
When assessing, our work as teachers is to recognise where a learner is on the normal distribution, and then identify the steps needed to improve this location.
There are a number of standard methods of measuring attainment against the normal distribution.
The first method, Stanines (STAndard NINE), splits the population into nine parts. This system is similar to the old curriculum (where, during key stage 3, levels 1–8 were awarded, as well as exceptional performance). It also reflects the nine grades currently available in our GCSE system (A*, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, U).
The second system, percentiles, assigns a number between 0 and 100 to everyone in the population. A score of 50 sits in the middle, and this is also the most common score.
The third system, SAS (Standard Age Score), uses 100 as the middle, and usually awards a score between 69 and 131. The national literacy and numeracy tests use this system.
When designing a new assessment system, we must use the experience of other countries who have recently removed levels. One such country is England, who removed levels in September 2014. The current system asks teachers to assign to learners one of three categories in key stages 1 and 2: “Working towards the expected standard (WTS)”, “Meeting the expected standard (EXS)”, and “Working at a greater depth than the expected standard (GDS)”. The assessment guru Daily Christodoulou argues that this system is not fit for purpose.
Imagine four learners whose actual attainment is shown in the following diagram.
Even though Kelly and Dafydd’s attainments are close to each other, they receive different “labels” in a three-tier system. Perhaps Kelly will receive additional assistance, whilst Dafydd receives none? Similarly, the true attainment of Gruff and Cerys are similar, but they are assigned different labels. Perhaps Cerys will have access to More Able and Talented activities, but could Gruff also benefit from these activities?
Another disadvantage to the WTS/EXS/GDS system is that progress is difficult to quantify – and we must remember that progress is central to the new curriculum. Given the label EXS, the only way of showing progress would then to receive the GDS label. But what is the next step after this? Is everyone with the GDS label free to sit on their laurels? And what about the learners with additional learning needs who receive the label WTS? It is likely that these learners will receive this label throughout their journey in school. Do these learners show no progress at all? (Unlikely!) This situation manifests itself in the results to our national literacy and numeracy tests. Imagine being a learner with additional learning needs receiving the following results in the procedural numeracy test.
Year 2: Less than 70
Year 3: Less than 70
Year 4: Less than 70
Year 5: Less than 70
Year 6: Less than 70
Year 7: Less than 70
Year 8: Less than 70
Year 9: Less than 70
How would you feel about numeracy by the end of year 9? Has no progress at all been made?
When I was a pupil at Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy, Llanrwst (quite some time ago!), I had a scrapbook containing notes on various topics. In the back of the scrapbook, I had decided to write the following at the end of each school year.
(Translated: “Here is my writing after 1 year in YDC” / “Here is my writing after 2 years in YDC” / “Here is my writing after three years at Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy” / “Here is my writing after five years at Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy. Joke! Four years”!)
Can progress be seen here? Yes!
- By the end of year 8 I have learnt to use an apostrophe in “ ’sgwennu”.
- By the end of year 9 I have learnt to include a circumflex accent in “ôl”.
- By the end of year 9 I have remembered to include full stops at the end of sentences.
Is there more to learn? Yes!
- I need to remember to write “f” not “F” everywhere.
- Perhaps it could be argued that I need to learn to write better jokes!
Even though I was constantly in the same Welsh set throughout my journey at school (and so assigned a constant “label”), it is clear from the above that I showed progress during the journey. It is important that we capture this progress.
Here are the principles of Ysgol y Creuddyn’s assessment system.
- We use a wide scale for measuring attainment. This avoids using labels that are too wide, and so gives us a better chance of measuring progress.
- We measure progress across different years, not within an individual school year.
- We use the No More Marking system to identify, for each Area of Learning and Experience, an attainment band for each year.
- We map individual subject assessments to the attainment band, using a system similar to the one used at A Level to change raw marks to the uniform mark scale (UMS).
PRINCIPLE 1: Use a wide scale.
We use the scale 0 to 200, which is the default scale on the No More Marking system. This does not mean that we need to identify 200 levels of attainment! Instead is gives us enough scope to be able to measure attainment from the start of year 7 to the end of year 11 – and so provide enough space to be able to measure progress.
The learners with the highest attainment in school will receive a score close to 200 (a learner highly likely to receive an A* grade at GCSE level), and the learners with the lowest attainment in school will receive a score that is closer to 0 (usually additional learning needs learners in year 7). BUT! The learner with the lowest score this year will likely not have the lowest score in future: the progress made by this learner will see the attainment score grow over time, and so avoid the stigma of receiving “less than 70” every year.
PRINCIPLE 2: Measure progress across different years.
By using the same scale from year 7 up until year 11, it gives us a chance to see how attainment changes from one year to the next (and so observe how much progress has been made). It is possible to reward pupils who have made the most progress, or identify pupils with low progress or negative progress.
PRINCIPLE 3: Use No More Marking to identify the attainment band for each year.
The website No More Marking uses a comparative judgment system to assess a piece of work. Instead of marking each piece of work individually, two pieces of work are shown simultaneously on screen, and the only question is “which piece of work is better?”. When assessing open-ended tasks, the website claims that the system is quicker and more accurate than traditional marking.
Mark one piece of work at a time.
person standing in front of you.
Compare two pieces of work at a time.
standing in front of you.
We have conducted a pilot where everyone in years 7 to 11 have completed the same assessment task in mathematics:
- On a piece of plain paper, write down everything that you know to be true in mathematics.
- Try to include the most difficult mathematics you are familiar with.
- You can include such things as facts, formulae and examples.
- You can include any part of mathematics (e.g. number, algebra, shape, data handling).
Here are the results for the first time the task was completed (in November 2019):
Here are the results for the second time the task was completed (in December 2022):
The graphs show that learners (in general) make progress in mathematics going from year 7 to year 11, as the orange box and whisker diagrams for year 11 are higher than the blue box and whisker diagrams for year 7.
It is also possible to analyse
- that the most progress is made between years 8 and 9 (perhaps because the number of lessons increases from 3 per week in year 8 to 4 per week in year 9?)
- the present year 11 is not as strong as the year 11 in 2019
- there are a few outliers in year 10 who have not shown the expected progress (their attainment level is less than nearly everyone in year 7).
The above graphs (where technically we consider vertical equating) allow us to set the following attainment bands for the Mathematics and Numeracy Area of Learning and Experience:
Year 7: 10 to
Year 8: 30 to 150
Year 9: 20 to 170
Year 10: 50 to 170
Year 11: 50 to 200
It is important to note that the No More Marking task does not set the attainment level for an individual learner; instead it sets the band in which an individual’s attainment level will appear.
Notice also that the bands are not linear (for example the band for year 9 starts at 20, which is less than the starting point for year 8). This acknowledges that learning is not a linear process, something that is not recognised by “learning paths”. The bands need to be reviewed regularly to recognise the different attainment levels of different years.
PRINCIPLE 4: Map subject assessments to the attainment band
At the end of each academic year, each subject or area of learning and experience will have an assortment of assessments completed over the year. To be able to fairly compare attainment levels between different subjects or different areas of learning and experience, we use a system of mapping assessments to the appropriate attainment band. This is similar to the system used in the A Level examinations, where a raw mark is converted to the Uniform Mark Scale (UMS).
Joe Bloggs has received the following marks in his year 7 mathematics tests this year.
Ysgol y Creuddyn test: 57%
Angles test: 64%
Data Handling and Statistics test: 43%
Percentages test: 56%
End of Year 7 Examination: 51%
The mathematics department awards a weighted average of 53% to Joe Bloggs, with more weighting attached to the end of year examination.
The percentage 53% corresponds to the percentile 56%, which means that Joe has performed better than 56% of his peers in year 7. (We need to change to a percentile to recognise that different assessments have different levels of difficulty.)
The attainment band for year 7 this year is 10 to 140. The width of the band is 130, so we multiply Joe’s percentile by 130 and then add 10 to give a final standardised score of 83. We can now compare this score to similar scores in other subjects. And in year 8, if Joe’s score is now 105, we can award a progress score of +22 to Joe for year 8.
Advantages of the System
- Being able to recognise quickly groups that would benefit from additional support (learners with low progress or negative progress).
- Whole-school assessment task recognises outliers (younger pupils showing exceptional performance, or older pupils underperforming).
- Flexibility in how individual departments assess; the mapping system ensures consistency across Areas of Learning and Experience.
- In the long term, the system can be used to quantify the performance of entire years, by comparison with previous corresponding years. This in turn can lead to the prediction of possible GCSE grades for the year.
Disadvantages of the System
- Difficult to understand at first – sufficient training needs to be given to all relevant stakeholders.
- Boils the performance over an entire year down to one number – the end of year report needs to include much more than this single number.
- Much administrative work required to set up the new system – but hopefully this will pay back in future.
Reporting to Parents
Here is what we have decided to include in the full end of year report to parents.(1) Contents Page
(2) Praise points
This page reports back on the praise points awarded in the ClassCharts system. Form tutors select the comments from a comment bank on SIMS. The colours for the numbers put the numbers in context (red / orange / yellow / green), by comparison with the points for the rest of the year
(3) Negative points
This page reports back on the negative points awarded in the ClassCharts system. Again form tutors are responsible for selecting the comments in the table.
(6) National Tests
The format of these pages is to be determined over the next few weeks. When the format has been decided, this blog will be updated!
(7) Individual Subject Reports
The report finishes with an individual page for each subject.
The attitude to learning / behaviour grades use the following definitions:
The diagram shows the standardised score in red, and puts it into context in purple. (The purple box and whisker diagram divides the entire year into four parts known as quartiles). The progress compared to the standardised score last year is shown in the table that follows, with the colours again putting it into context.
To finish, the comments suggest ways of improving attainment in future, remembering the statutory requirements: the report must show
- a brief summary about a learner’s progress in learning
- information about future progression needs/next steps for the individual learner required to support their progression
- brief advice on how parents/carers can support progression at home
Hopefully this blog has provided a few ideas regarding how to go about assessing and reporting to parents in the new curriculum. This is not the end of the story – far from it! – it is likely that our ideas will continue to be refined and improved over the next few weeks. If you have any feedback, please send it along via twitter (@mathemateg) or via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).