Assessment without Levels
In 2015, the Department for Education took the decision to remove the National Curriculum assessment levels as the primary way schools’ were held to account for children’s outcomes and for how schools might choose to describe progress and attainment over time.
There are many good reasons for this as levels were and had been distorting learning and teaching in schools. The following is an excerpt from the Expert Panel Review of the National Curriculum, 2014.
‘The levels system distorts pupil learning, creating the tragedy for instance, that some pupils become more concerned for ‘what level they are’ than for the substance of what they know, can do and understand…all assessment and other processes should bring people back to the content of the curriculum (and extent it has been taught and learning) instead of focussing on abstracted and arbitrary expressions of curriculum such as ‘levels’. (Chapter 8)
Assessment Within the Classroom –
Teachers as Assessors
We believe that children learn best when learning is planned based on what they already know, understand and can do. When children know where they are now in descriptive terms (not numerical levels), and most importantly, what they need to do next to improve their current learning, they are clearly and confidently involved in ‘Assessment for Learning’ (AfL). We believe this is a key aspect in self-motivation for children and ultimately in ensuring all children learn without limits.
We know that teachers both teach and assess at the same time, constantly seeking feedback from children about what has or has not been understood in every lesson. So our teachers work hard to use continuous in-class assessment techniques and protocols to check for understanding as they teach in class. They also mark children’s work and give feedback that is intended to move children on in their thinking or respond in some way to improve their work. Marking that does not do this is not productive.
Children also need to have a sense of assessment and ‘standards’ in their own heads. We work continuously to help children develop a sense of quality and craftsmanship in their work. Sometimes children will be asked to revise and redraft work so that they can achieve their personal best work. In order to do this we also teach children to give each other kind, specific and helpful feedback with each other’s work. We also use WAGOLLS (what a good one looks like) or tribute work so that children can see and get a real feel for what is required of them to produce work of quality.
Our assessment priorities are based on classroom practice which aims to develop three very important goals for effective teaching, learning and assessment:
Transparent goals – so that children are more likely to understand and engage in the work needed to meet that goal
Success criteria – so that children can see the specific actions that are needed to attain these criteria
Rapid formative feedback – so that feedback focusses on progress made from previous to desired outcomes. This develops more positive learning dispositions.
We use a range of summative assessments to inform us at key points about the progress of individual children and cohorts. We use a whole school approach to monitoring children’s progress over when we assess their attainment against national expectations. We have called this Age Related Expectations (ARE). We do not want to assess everything we teach as this is being done continuously as part of good classroom teaching. However, we have identified key programmes of study which are significant for children to know and understand at the end of academic years in order for them to be able to move on to the following years programmes of study. We call these ‘Learning Checkpoints’ and we have developed a Learning Checkpoints Monitor which enables us to look at both individual children’s progress, group progress and the progress across classes and cohorts. This raises questions that help us to think about our teaching and our curriculum provision.