Sunday, February 02, 2014

A return to the measuring of school efficacy?

In their most recent diktat, the DfE in their self-assumed guise of Knowledge Tsars, would appear to be deliberately poking an already irked education profession with yet another stick labelled Assessment ("Reception children to face compulsory tests from 2016").  Poking, beating, whipping, flogging, whatever you want to call it, the time in which we teachers can actually do what we're trained to do is being increasingly worn away by the relentless desire to measure: Foundation Profiles, Phonics Screenings, SATS ... by the time they're 11, our little people have been poked, prodded and measured in a manner more befitting the innumerable residents of Hungtingdon Life Sciences than the youth of the 21st Century.

But ...

The baselining proposed in the above article does, hear me out, have its merits.

If we take the DfE at their word and they do do away with KS1 SATs, if schools and progress are to be measured at all* then there needs to be something to measure against.

To my mind, any baseline test should aim to establish basic levels of knowledge - in this case, what a small person knows.

Small people know lots of things and know how to do lots of things.  Some of them know more than others and can do more than others.  Some can read, tie their shoelaces, colour in neatly, recognise their letters, count to 20, say please and thank you, dress themselves and so on.  Others are equally adept at playing with their own poop, chewing things, falling over, sticking everything in their mouths and the rest.  Baselining of each would inform us of where they are starting.

But - yes, another one, and this is perhaps the biggest of all - such a thing in no way indicates what the child is likely to achieve in their life either academically or otherwise.  It is a mark in the sand and no more.

If a child ends up leaving primary school still eating their own poop and falling over then either there are issues with the child or the school has really not done what it's meant to do.   If, however, progress has been made in any way shape or form then well done everybody.

Baselining is not and should not be a measurement against a prescribed standard; it should be a starting point against which to measure progress:  See what the children can do, celebrate it for what it is and then let them develop, grow and learn.  When they leave school (secondary, preferably, but the assessment obsession is a strong one and I can't see that happening!) see how they're doing; see if they can do what you'd expect an 11 year old to be able to do, be it a handstand or the x times table.

So how does this affect school efficacy and its measurement?  Ignore the baseline and celebrate the progress the children have made and how many of them can do what an 11-year-old (not a 13 or 16-year-old) should be able to do.

I suspect that the intentions behind the proposed assessment of small people is just that, suspect.  It would be nice to be proved wrong.

*I'm assuming here that the likelihood of schools not being measured is slim to non-existent.

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