Thursday, 7 September 2017

KS2 progress measures 2017: a guide to what has and hasn't changed

At the end of last term I wrote this blog post. It was my attempt to a) predict what changes the DfE would make to the KS2 progress methodology this year, and b) get my excuses in early about why my 2016 VA Calculator could not be relied upon for predicting VA for 2017. For what it's worth, I reckon the 2017 Calculator will be better for predicting 2018 VA, but 2016 data was all over the shop and provided no basis for predicting anything.

Anyway, no doubt you've all now downloaded your data from the tables checking website (and if you haven't, please do so now. Guidance is here) and have spent the last week trying to make sense of it, getting round what -1.8 means and how those confidence intervals work. Perhaps you've used my latest VA calculator to recalculate data with certain pupils removed, or updating results in light of review outcomes, or maybe changing results to those 'what if' outcomes. 

This is all good fun (or not depending on your data) and a useful exercise, especially if you are expecting a visit, but it's important to understand that the DfE has made changes to the methodology this year - some of which I predicted and some of which I didn't - and, of course, the better we understand how VA works, the better we can fight our corner.

So what's changed?

Actually let's start with what hasn't changed:

1) National average is still 0
VA is a relative measure. It involves comparing a pupil's attainment score to the national average score for all pupils with the same start point (i.e. the average KS2 score for the prior attainment group (PAG)). The difference between the actual and the estimated score is the pupil's VA score. Adding up all the differences and dividing by the number of pupils included in the progress measure gives us the school's VA score. If you calculate the national average difference the result will be 0. Always.

School VA scores can be interpreted as follows:
  • Negative: progress is below average 
  • Positive: progress is above average
  • Zero: progress is average
Note that a positive score does not necessarily mean all pupils made above average progress, and a negative score does not indicate that all pupils made below average progress. It's worth investigating the impact that individual pupils have on overall progress scores and take them out if necessary (I don't mean in a mafia way, obviously). 

2) The latest year's data is used to generate estimates 
Pupils are compared against the average score for pupils with same start point in the same year. This is why estimates based on the previous year's methodology should be treated with caution and used for guidance only. So, the latest VA calculator is fine for analysing 2017 data, but is not going to provide you with bombproof estimates for 2018. Same goes for FFT. 

3) KS1 prior attainment still involves double weighting maths
KS1 APS is used to define prior attainment groups (PAGs) for the KS2 progress measure. It used to be a straight up mean average, but since 2016 has involved double weighting maths, and is calculated as follows:


If that fills you with rage and despair, try this:


Bands are as follows:

low PA: KS1 APS <12
Mid PA: KS1 APS 12-17.99
High PA: KS1 APS 18+

4) Writing nominal scores stay the same
The crazy world of writing progress continues. I thought the nominal scores for writing assessments might change but that's not the case, i.e. 

WTS: 91
EXS: 103
GDS: 113

This means that we'll continue to see wild swings in progress scores as pupils lurch 10 points in either direction depending on the assessment they get, and any pupil with a KS1 APS of 16.5 or higher has to get GDS to get a positive score, but GDS assessments are kept in a remote castle under armed guard. I love this measure.

5) As do pre-key stage nominal scores
No change here either, which means the problems continue. Scores assigned to pre-key stage pupils in reading, writing and maths are as follows:

PKF: 73
PKE: 76
PKG: 79

Despite reforms (see changes below) these generally result in negative scores (definitely if the pupils was P8 or above at KS1). It's little wonder so many schools are hedging their bets and entering pre-key stage pupils for tests in the hope they score the minimum of 80. 

6) confidence intervals still define those red and green boxes
These can go on both the changed and not changed piles. Confidence intervals change each year due to annual changes in standard deviations and numbers of pupils in the cohort, but the way in which they are used to define statistical significance doesn't. Schools have confidence intervals constructed around their progress scores, which involves an upper and a lower limit. These indicate statistical significance as follows:

Both upper and lower limit are positive (e.g. 0.7 to 3.9): progress is significantly above average
Both upper and lower limit are negative (e.g. -4.6 to -1.1): progress is significantly below average
Confidence interval straddles 0 (e.g. -1.6 to 2.2): progress is in line with average

7) Floor standards don't move
This shocked me. If i had to pick one data thing that I thought was certain to change it would be the floor standard thresholds. But no, they remain as follows:

Reading: -5
Writing: -7
Maths: -5

Schools are below floor if they fall below 65% achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths combined, and fall below any one of the above progress thresholds (caveat: if just below one measure then it needs to be sig-. Hint: it will be). Oh, and floor standards only apply to cohorts of 11 or more pupils.

And now for what has changed

1) Estimates - most go up but some go down
The estimates - those benchmarks representing average attainment for each PAG against which each pupil's KS2 score is compared - change every year. This year most have gone up (as expected) but some, for lower PAGs, have gone down. This is due to the inclusion of data from special schools, which was introduced to mitigate the issue of whopping negative scores for pre-key stage pupils.

Click here to view how the estimates have changed for each comparable PAG. Note that due to new, lower PAGs introduced for 2017, not all are comparable with 2016.

2) Four new KS1 PAGs
The lowest PAG in 2016 (PAG1) spanned the KS1 APS range from 0 to <2.5, which includes pupils that were P1 up to P6 at KS1. Introducing data from special schools in 2017 has enabled this to be split into 4 new PAGs, which better differentiates these pupils. The use of special school data has also had the effect of lowering progress estimates for low prior attainment pupils, which goes some way to mitigating the issue described here. However, despite these reforms, if the pupil has a KS1 APS of 2.75 or above (P8 upwards) a pre-key stage assessment at KS2 is going to result in a negative score.

3) New nominal scores for lowest attaining pupils at KS2
in 2016, all pupils that were below the standards of the pre-key stage at KS2 were assigned a blanket score of 70. This has changed this year, with a new series of nominal scores assigned to individual p-scales at KS2, i.e:

P1-3: 59 points
P4: 61 points
P5: 63 points
P6: 65 points
P7: 67 points
P8: 69 points
BLW but no p-scale: 71 points

I'm not sure how much this helps mainstream primary schools. If you have a pupil that was assessed in p-scales they would have been better off under the 2016 scoring regime (they would have received 70 points); as it stands they can get a maximum of 69. Great.

Please note: these nominal scores are used for progress measures only. They are not included in average scaled scores. 

4) Closing the progress loophole of despair
Remember this? In 2016, if a pupil was entered for KS2 tests and did not achieve enough marks to gain a scaled score, then they were excluded from progress measures, which was a bonus (unless they also had a PKS assessment, in which case they ended up with a nominal score that put a huge dent in the school's progress score). This year the DfE have closed this particular issue by assigning these pupils a nominal score of 79, which puts them on a par with PKG pupils (no surprise there). In the VA calculator, such pupils should be coded as N.

The loophole is still open by the way. Pupils with missing results, or who were absent from tests, are not included in progress measures, and I find that rather worrying.

5) Standard deviations change
These show how much, on average, pupils' scores deviate from the national average score; and they are used to construct the confidence intervals, which dictate statistical significance. This is another reason why we can't accurately predict progress in advance.


So, there you go: quite a lot of change to get your head round. It has to be said that unless the DfE recalculate 2016 progress scores using this updated methodology (which they won't), I really can't see how last year's data can be compared to this year's.

But it will be, obviously. 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

KS2 VA Calculator 2017

Updated basic version of KS2 VA calculator can be downloaded here.

and new version with pupil groups tables (progress and average scores) can be downloaded here

Please download before use (ie don't attempt to edit the online version). You should see 3 dots top right of screen - click on these to download to your desktop. Recommend reading the notes page first and also worth reading the primary accountability guidance for more information about nominal scores, p-scales and pre-key stage pupils. Quite a bit more complicated this year with more prior attainment groups (24 instead of 21), closing of the loophole (pupils not scoring on test receive a score of 79), and nominal scores assigned to individual p-scales (rather than blanket score of 70 assigned to BLW).

Which, in my opinion, means this year's progress data is not comparable with last year's, but hey ho.....


and let me know asap if you find any errors

Friday, 18 August 2017

The Progress Bank

For primary schools, there are two main issues with the current system of measuring progress: 1) it is high stakes, 2) it involves teacher assessment. Whether we are talking about our own internal tracking systems, or those official end of key stage DfE measures, the former clearly influences the latter. Imagine you are told that you have to run a marathon in under 3 hours (yes, I do like a running analogy) and that if you fail to do so, the consequences will be dire. Of course, there are some good marathon runners out there for whom this is feasible, and a handful of really good ones for whom this is no problem at all, but for the majority of us this is near impossible. Then we are told that no one will be monitoring your efforts; they will just be basing their judgement on your time, which you alone are responsible for keeping. Now how many sub-3 hours marathon times will we see?

This is the weird situation we find ourselves in: an incompatible mix of high stakes and self-evaluation. Like fire and duvets, they make for strange and dangerous bedfellows, and clearly it's not working. We all know that really.

Consider that weird, near vertical cliff that occurs at 32 marks every year in the national phonics screening check results; or the impact that current KS1 measures will have on the EYFSP now that the profile is used to establish prior attainment groups for those pseudo-progress measures in the dashboard. Then there are those well documented problems with using KS1 results as the baseline for progress measures. The DfE are attempting to solve this by implementing a reception baseline, but this is highly contentious and unpopular; and even if it's implemented in 2019 as planned, we won't see the results until 2026. Then there is the thorny Infant/junior/middle school problem that the reception baseline won't adequately solve; it will just blur the issue so no one really knows where the problems lie, or if there are any problems anyway.

And then, of course, there are those highly variable and suspiciously high KS2 writing results, and associated issues around moderation. Why do you think that KS2 writing was ditched from the baseline for the Progress 8 measure the minute we ran out of secondary pupils with KS2 writing test results? (That was last year by the way; the 2017 GCSE cohort were the first to have writing TA at KS2 and that won't be used in their progress 8 measures).

These are some of the well known issues relating to statutory teacher assessment, assessments that are done almost entirely for the purposes of accountability. It is little wonder that no one seems to have much faith in progress measures that rely on such data. But these issues are not restricted to statutory assessment; they also exist in the various tracking systems schools use, tracking systems which still rely on teacher assessment for measuring progress.

The final report ofthe Commission on Assessment without Levels warns about the risks of using teacher assessment for multiple purposes, yet this is still the norm in many schools. Teacher assessment is commonly used not only for formative purposes, but also for measuring pupil progress, monitoring standards, reporting to Governors, evaluating teacher performance, and even comparing schools. These multiple purposes exert conflicting pressures on the data that can and will lead to its distortion; and let's face it, teacher assessment is too subjective anyway. One teacher's 'secure' is another teacher's 'greater depth', so even if there were no high stakes attached, we still wouldn't have an accurate picture. This is made even more complicated by the various methods of the tracking systems themselves: different steps, bands and point scores; varying lists of key objectives; and contrasting definitions of 'age related expectations' based on spurious algorithms and arbitrary thresholds. And let's be honest, progress measures based on teacher assessment pretty much always involve reinventing levels anyway. No one is talking the same language; no one knows what's going on. No one can measure and compare progress.

That's the point of Progress Bank.

This is something I've been thinking about for a long time: a system that wouldn't rely on teacher assessment to measure progress and wouldn't rely on end of key stage results either. A system that is powered by whatever standardised tests the school chooses to use, and can measure progress from any point to any point, benchmarked against other pupils with similar start points.

This is obviously a rather ambitious project and not something I'm capable of building, which is why I approached the people at Insight Tracking. I like their current system - it's intuitive and highly customisable  - and they tend to build things quick. I needed their expertise and thankfully they agreed.

The system will work like this: schools upload standardised scores from the various tests they use, pick a start point (i.e. previously uploaded data, say at the start of Y1 or Y3) and an end point (probably the most recent upload), and they receive zero-centred VA scores for cohorts, key groups and individual pupils in whatever subjects are tested. The methodology is essentially the same as that used by the DfE to measure progress, so the data is in a common format, but the system is far more flexible in terms of start and end points, and is based on more regular, lower stakes testing. Schools will be able to interrogate their data using simple, interactive reports, which will focus not only on progress, but on attainment gaps, too.

The neat thing is it doesn't matter what tests you use, as long as they're standardised; and if results aren't standardised, the Progress Bank can standardise them if enough data is uploaded by enough schools to provide a suitable sample. If you use tests from multiple providers, that's fine; and if you change test provider, your old data will be stored in Progress Bank, so you won't lose it and can continue to use it. We can, if permission is given, even transfer test results when a pupil changes school. And if you decide to leave, the data is deleted. You own it.

The Progress Bank will be especially useful to junior and middle schools, which have a particular issue when it comes to progress measures, and this project has been expedited by the JUSCO Conference and conversations with members including Chris McDonald, the chair of the group. Obviously, the ideal solution for junior schools is to enable them to measure progress from a Year 3 on-entry baseline, not from KS1 results or from a reception baseline as proposed. Progress Bank will allow them to do that.

But it's not just for junior schools; it is aimed at any school that is interested in alternative, benchmarked progress measures. The system can even measure progress from KS1 scaled scores instead of KS1 teacher assessment used in official measures, or from any current standardised reception baseline assessment. We hope that the data will help schools challenge the flawed measures that is currently used to hold them to account. And by using standardised scores to measure progress, hopefully we can protect the integrity of teacher assessment by ensuring it is used solely for formative purposes, and perhaps reduce workload in terms of tracking and analysis too.

Now we just need lots of schools to get on board.

Find out more about the project and register your interest here:

And follow us on twitter @theprogressbank

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Making the cut

Assessment. It should be simple really: just checking what pupils do and don't know. But assessment appears to have turned into some kind of war, with the legions of accountability amassed on one side, and the special forces of teaching and learning besieged upon a slippery slope with nowhere to go. We become so focussed on outcomes - on floor standards, and coasting thresholds, and league tables - that we risk losing sight of what's important: the here and now. But it is focussing on the here and now that makes all the difference. The irony is that concentrating on accountability - on those distant and unpredictable performance measures - can jeopardise the very results you are striving for. In short, focus on teaching and learning, and the results take care of themselves.

This is, of course, easier said than done but something has to change. In too many schools assessment has become a burden: a top down directive disconnected from learning; an interminable, box-ticking, data-collecting, drain on teachers' time. The risks are clear: morale nose dives and pupils' learning is put at risk. We therefore need to ditch some of our assessment baggage - aim to do more with less - and this requires some serious rationalisation of our processes. It all comes down to one simple question:

Does this have a positive impact on learning?

We need to go through everything we do in the name of assessment and school improvement and ask that question, and we need to be ruthless and honest. What is the benefit and what is the cost? How long does this take? Does it tell us anything we don't already know? Is it having a negative impact? Is it taking teachers' time away from teaching? Ultimately, the only way to improve a school is to teach children well, and anything that distracts from that purpose is a risk.

So let's deconstruct our entire approach to assessment and lay it all out on the hall floor: the various tests you use, your marking policy, target setting (both for pupils and performance management), those lists of learning objectives stapled into pupils' books, and the component parts of your tracking system (yes! every single measure, category, grid, table, graph, chart and report). We now separate these into two piles: those that have a demonstrable, positive impact on teaching and learning, and those that are purely done for the purposes of accountability.

We keep the first pile and ditch the rest.

We now have a stripped down system that is fit for purpose, that is focussed on the right things. From now on, the information we provide to governors and external agencies is a byproduct of our assessment system, which exists to serve teaching and learning alone. If it works, it's right, no matter what others may say. Many will try to convince you that you're mad but deep down they probably just wish they could do the same. If you think this is all too radical, it's really not. There are many schools with extremely minimalist approaches to assessment that have had very successful inspections. Just as long as your approach is informative and has impact, then it's fine. If anything, the simpler the better. And Ofsted are not asking you to generate data purely for their benefit anyway. The Handbook states:

Ofsted does not expect performance- and pupil-tracking information to be presented in a particular format. Such information should be provided to inspectors in the format that the school would ordinarily use to track and monitor the progress of pupils in that school

And the workload review group report on data management had this to say:

Be ruthless: only collect what is needed to support outcomes for children. The amount of data collected should be proportionate to its usefulness. Always ask why the data is needed.

In alpine climbing there are two popular adages: 'if in doubt, leave it out', and 'if you haven't got it, you can't use it'. The first one is obvious, and it's what I'm trying to get schools to think about when they go about rationalising what they do. The second one links to it and recognises that if we do decide to carry something we'll most likely try to use it, in which case it becomes a potential distraction that can slow us down. It is common to hear headteachers and senior leaders say "we don't use all those bits of our system, we just use this grid". But the problem is that whilst all those other bits exist there is a temptation to use them, to waste your evenings and weekends wading through various reports and charts, and for governors to ask for them. Even worse, there is the potential for a 'visitor' to say "Oh, you use that system! Can you run this report for me please?"

Ditch it. If you haven't got it, you can't use it, and so it ceases to be an issue.

And when inevitably you do come up against someone asking for something they shouldn't be asking for, this should be your response:

"We don't do that in this school. It has no impact on learning"

Have a great summer.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Predicting progress using the VA calculator: some things to bear in mind

It was great to read in Ofsted's March update that "Ofsted does not expect any prediction by schools of a progress score, as they are aware that this information will not be possible to produce due to the way progress measures at both KS2 and KS4 are calculated." Sean Harford went even further in his blog, describing the process of predicting progress as a 'mug's game'. This is welcome guidance from Ofsted and shows that they understand the complexities of value added measures in comparison to the old levels of progress measure.

However, whilst Ofsted won't be asking for such data, I recognise that schools still like to have an idea of progress scores before they pack up for the summer, especially with floor standards link to these measures, and that's why I produce the VA calculator. It's a free tool and I'm happy for all primary schools to use and share it. It's available in two formats: old school excel, and new-fangled web tool. Feel free to have a play around with both.
But, if you do use it, it's important that you understand its limitations, which I've outlined below in order of impact and likelihood of change.

1) Estimates
Value Added measures involve comparing each pupil's actual result against an estimated result. The whole school progress score is the average of the differences between the actual results and estimates. An estimate is the national average score for pupils with similar prior attainment in that particular year. For example, let's take a year 6 pupil that was 2c in reading, writing and maths at KS1. They have a KS1 APS of 13 and are in prior attainment group 9. The DfE have to identify all pupils nationally with the same KS1 APS score, and they calculate the average scaled score for this prior attainment group in order to generate the estimates . In 2016, pupils in this prior attainment group son average scored 97.26, 96.69 and 98.33 in reading, writing and maths respectively (if you want to know more about the crazy world of writing progress, read this). Our 2c pupil's KS2 scores are therefore compared against these benchmarks - if they score higher then they get a positive score; if they score lower they get a negative score. The issue with trying to work out progress for the current year 6 cohort is that we are comparing them against last year's estimates, whereas we should be comparing them against the national average score for pupils with similar prior attainment in the same cohort. We don't have this data yet and won't have it until September. Judging by the overall improvement in results nationally, we can safely assume that the estimates for each prior attainment group will change and will no doubt rise in most if not all cases (they may drop for lowest PA groups because DfE intend to introduce data from special schools to mitigate this problem).
Verdict: definite change

2) Standard deviations
Standard deviations change every year, and these form part of the calculation of confidence intervals on which statistical significance depends. This means your data might not be significantly above or below average on the VA calculator but might be when we get the proper data in September. Or vice versa.
Verdict: definite change

3) Pupils that are entered for tests but do not score will be assigned a nominal score
This was covered in the progress loophole of despair post here: pupils assessed as HNM or EXS in reading and maths that sat the test but did not score enough marks to achieve a scaled score were excluded from progress measures last year. It looks like this particular loophole will close this year, which is a good thing, but we have no idea what nominal score these pupils will be assigned. I'm voting for 79 (1 point below the lowest scaled score of 80). The loophole was a particular issue in reading last year, when over 3000 pupils were entered for tests but did not achieve enough marks to gain a scaled score (compared with around 300 in maths). It is likely to be a much smaller number this year, but it will still affect quite a few schools.

Please note: this specifically relates to pupils assessed as HNM or EXS that did not manage to achieve a scaled score. Pre-key stage pupils that were entered for tests (for whatever reason) and did not manage to achieve a scaled score had a fall back, nominal score and therefore were included in progress measures (see No. 4 below).
Verdict: definite change

4) Floor standards & Coasting
Not really related to the VA calculator but something schools will have their eye on. Last year the progress floor thresholds were set at -5, -7 and -5 for reading, writing and maths respectively. These were incredibly low and reflected the fact that attainment was low (they just want the right amount of schools below floor after all). These threshold will go up this year, but by how much is anyone's guess. Same applies to coasting - they just halved the floor standards, remember? - unless they scrap the coasting measure. Please let them scrap the coasting measure. I assume we'll get the new floor and coasting thresholds at some point in the autum term but for some reason they don't apply them in the Ofsted dashboard until validated data is released.
Verdict: almost certain change

5) Nominal scores for writing
Currently, pupils are assigned the following nominal scores according to their writing teacher assessment:

WTS: 91
EXS: 103
GDS: 113

It is likely that these will change, which will have an impact on progress scores. If they go up, then that will mitigate the inevitable increase in the estimates; if they stay the same then there will be a negative impact on overall progress scores. For what it's worth, I'd like to see the writing progress measure scrapped because it's frankly ridiculous.
Verdict: change likely

6) Nominal scores for pre-key stage pupils
Last year, pre-key stage pupils were assigned nominal scores according to their specific teacher assessment, which caused a huge amount of damage to the progress scores of those schools that had pre-key stage pupils. These scores, used for progress measures only, are as follows:

BLW: 70
PKF: 73
PKE: 76
PKG: 79

We have no idea if these nominal scores will change but I suspect they won't because increasing them will encroach upon the actual scale score range, which doesn't make sense, and decreasing them will further penalise schools with low attaining, SEN pupils. Obviously, any change to these scores will have an impact on progress calculations.
Verdict: change unlikely

NB: If you want to recalculate progress with pre-key stage pupils removed, this is something the VA calculator can help with.

7) Prior Attainment Groups
Currently there are 21 prior attainment groups, as detailed on p17-18 of the Primary Accountability Guidance. These primary attainment groups (PAGs) are integral to the progress measures and are, like the other factors detailed above, a vital part of progress calculations and the VA calculator. They are the bolts onto which the estimate nuts fix. If these change then it will fundamentally alter structure of the progress measures, and make latest data incomparable with last year. I suspect they will remain the same. 

Verdict: change unlikely

We will have to wait for the release of progress data in September to get answers to these questions. In the interim, the VA calculator can be used as a guide to indicate whether progress is well above or below average, or broadly in line. We will of course update the VA calculator with 2017 estimates in September so you can use it to accurately recalculate progress with specific pupils removed. I will have more confidence in the forecasts next year, when the estimates are based on this year's more reliable results, and many of the issues listed above have been resolved.

So use it and share it; just be aware that data is likely to change.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Primary assessment for non-primary people: a very quick guide

The DfE collects a bewildering array of data from primary schools. This quick guide to statutory assessment is here to help.

Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP)
This assessment takes place at the end of the reception year when pupils are 5 years old. It 
comprises 17 early learning goals (ELGs) against which pupils are assessed as emerging, expected, or exceeding. If pupils meet the expected level of development in the 12 prime and specific ELGs then they are deemed to have reached a ‘good level of development’ (GLD). The percentage reaching GLD is the key performance measure, which is shown in the Ofsted Inspection dashboard but is not in the publicly available performance tables.

Phonics Screening Check (PSC)
Carried out at the end of Year 1, pupils attempt to decode 40 words, half of which are real and the other half made-up. Pupils managing to decode 32 or more out of 40 have achieved the expected standard, and the percentage doing so is another key measure. As for EYFSP, school results are presented in the Inspection dashboard but are not available in the public domain.

Key Stage 1 (KS1)
At the end of year 2 pupils receive a teacher assessment in reading, writing, maths, and science. In science pupils are simply deemed to have met or not met expected standards (EXS or HNM). In other subjects the majority of pupils are assessed as either working towards (WTS), working at the expected standard (EXS) or working at greater depth (GDS). Pre-key stage assessment frameworks are available for those pupils that are working below the standard of the curriculum. Pupils take tests to inform the overall teacher assessment in reading and maths; there are no tests for writing and science. A grammar, punctuation and spelling test is provided but it is non-statutory and no data is collected. The DfE collect pupils’ overall teacher assessment in each subject – they do not collect the test scores – and the percentage achieving expected standards and greater depth in reading, writing and maths are the key measures. Pupils’ KS1 results also act as the baseline for primary school progress measures but this may change in future if the DfE implement a baseline at the start of reception. A school’s KS1 results are shown in the inspection dashboard but are not available in the public domain. 

Key Stage 2 (KS2)
At the end of Year 6, pupils sit tests in reading, maths, and grammar, punctuation and spelling. 
Achieving a score of 100 or more indicates that the pupil has met the expected standard and a score of 110 is deemed to be a high score. There are no tests for writing and science so pupils receive a teacher assessment based on the KS2 teacher assessment frameworks*, and these mirror the format of KS1 with a binary result for science (HNM or EXS), and more differentiated outcomes in writing (WTS, EXS, GDS). Pre-key stage frameworks are used to assess pupils working below the curriculum standard, with more pre-key stage categories than at KS1. The DfE collect test scores and teacher assessments but headline measures are mainly based on scaled scores in reading and maths, and teacher assessment in writing.  Headline measures include:
  • % achieving expected standards in reading, writing and maths combined (1 measure)
  • % achieving high standards in reading and maths, and greater depth in writing (1 measure)
  • Average scores in reading and maths (2 separate measures)
  • Average progress in reading, writing and maths (3 separate measures)
There are floor standards linked to these results with an attainment floor set at 65% achieving expected standards in reading, writing and maths combined, and progress floor thresholds that change each year. Schools' results are available in the public domain as well as in the inspection dashboard.

Note that only reading and maths scores are used for Progress 8 baselines.

*Teachers also make an assessment of reading and maths. This data is collected but is not used in headline measures.

Performance tables:
DfE Statistics:
Key guidance:

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Data Burden

In implementing a new approach to assessment and tracking we must first weigh up our desire for data against any impact on workload. Sometimes those seemingly minor tweaks can produce a butterfly effect, placing huge demands on teachers' time that are most likely disproportionate to any benefit gained from the data. Before embarking on a new assessment journey always start by asking: who is this data for? what impact will it have on learning?

Many schools have implemented systems with a small number of key learning objectives in each subject, encouraging teachers to have the confidence to make judgements on pupils' competence within a broad framework. Some schools however have broken these key objectives down into many smaller steps - perhaps to enable progress to be measured over shorter periods - and this is having an adverse impact both on teacher workload and possibly on learning itself as we seek to assess and record everything a pupil does. This may be done to improve accuracy but such micromanagement of assessment is undermining professional judgement and is unnecessary, demoralising and counterproductive. There is a great irony in procedures put in place supposedly for the purposes of school improvement that actually take teachers' time away from teaching. It is hardly surprising that some headteachers are experiencing a backlash. An anti-tracking rebellion is underway in many schools.

I recently visited a school to help them set up tracking for the reception year. Initially the school wanted to track against development matters statements in each of the areas of the early years foundation stage profile, making an assessment every half term. After discussion, they decided that they would just focus on reading, writing and maths. I took a look at the list of statements - there were around 60 for each subject across the various month bands. I got out my calculator:

60 statements

3 subjects

6 terms

45 pupils

That comes to 48,600 assessments that the Early Years teacher would have to make across the course of year.

Let's say each assessment takes 5 seconds to enter onto the system. This works out as 9 days per year for one teacher.

Perhaps the teacher wouldn't have to update each assessment each term but you take the point. It's a potentially huge burden. Thankfully the headteacher and deputy went a bit pale and decided to go back to the drawing board. Their tracking system now requires the teacher to record an assessment against each of the 17 areas of the foundation stage three times per year. Somewhat more manageable and the early years teacher was certainly happier. They can spend more time doing more important stuff, like teaching.

But yesterday I had a lengthy twitter chat with awesome @misterunwin who challenged my thinking further. In his school they do no objective level tracking at all in their system. No box ticking, no rag rating statements, no assessment by numbers. Teachers make an overall judgement of where each pupil is at each half term and this produces all the data the school needs for analysis and reporting purposes. Teachers therefore spend very little time on data entry, freeing them up to do the stuff that has real impact: planning lessons and teaching children. Detailed pupil progress reviews are used to reveal gaps, inform next steps and identify where further support is needed. Staff are very happy with this arrangement, and improved staff morale will obviously benefit the school in many ways.

I have always tried to encourage schools to keep lists of objectives to an absolute minimum; to strike that balance between impact on learning and impact on workload. However, I completely understand why schools will want to reject any approach to tracking that takes teachers' time away from teaching, which is why some schools are choosing not to track in this way at all. I doubt that we are about to see schools ditching tracking systems en masse - I'm certainly not advocating that, by the way - but we do need to be mindful of the how these approaches can eat into teachers' precious time and the adverse impact this can have.

Start by getting your calculator out.