Over the past few years, there have been a number of changes to the way that student progress and achievement is assessed. These have been national changes and have included the abolishing of National Curriculum levels and the introduction of new GCSE grades.
In the summer of 2017, year 11 pupils will be awarded a new GCSE number grade in English and Maths for the first time.The new GCSE number grading system runs from 1-9 with 9 being the highest grade. This replaces the old A*-G system. Most other GCSE subjects change in summer 2018.
These new grades are confusing when first encountered. Under the old system, a C was a good pass. Under the new system, a 5 is a good pass but a 4 is the equivalent to a low C grade previously. A 5 is the equivalent to a high C grade and low B grade.
Assessment in Ark schools is used to check how students are currently doing, to predict how they are likely to do, to work out what we need to do to help them get better final outcomes and to check that what we are doing with students is helping them to do well. We think that our assessment can be even more powerful if it is used consistently across many of our schools because it enables us to judge how our students are doing against a much larger group of students – so each school can see where their students sit across a wider sample of students. Further, we aim to check all of our grades against a nationally standardised set of data to ensure that the marks we are awarding are as accurate as possible.
Because National Curriculum grades have been abolished, we use the new 1-9 grades from years 7-11. We ensure that our curriculum and our assessment system are aligned and we plan our provision backwards from GCSE requirements to create a 5-year pathway to these very important exams.
The targets we set students are ambitious and challenging; our intention is that every student will work towards hitting these and if they achieve this, they are guaranteed to outperform their peers nationally and be well established for sixth form choices and their next steps.
Below is a more detailed explanation of how we use assessment to help our students do well and how our assessment system works. We call it Ark Assessment Plus (AA+).
- Pupils’ baseline KS2 scores are converted to a predicted new GCSE number. This conversion is based on the proportions of pupils who achieve each grade at KS2 compared to the proportions at GCSE.
- In KS3 and KS4, every long term, pupils do an assessment which is marked using GCSE number grades.
- These grades are age-related grades. They refer to a pupil’s position in the performance distribution for their age group. These grades do not tell you what a pupil would get if they took a GCSE at that moment in time. So, for example, if a pupil gets a grade 9 in Year 7 Summer 2, it means we think they are performing as well as could be expected for their age group. It does not mean that they could get a 9 if they sat a GCSE English paper at that point.
- We are using the statistical guidance provided by Ofqual in their 2014 board paper to define these grades.
- Our default target is for pupils to make + 1 grade of progress over the 5 years of secondary school, and to achieve a minimum of a grade 5 – whichever is the highest.
- The senior team moderates these targets for individual pupils to provide an overall school target that is ambitious and realistic.
Implications of this grading system
- Staying at the same grade is making progress..Moving up one grade may not sound that impressive, but it is.
- You can get a grade 9 in year 7 – but it means something different from a grade 9 in year 11.
- Assessments get harder from term to term and year to year, so that a grade 6 in year 11 represents a higher standard than a grade 6 in year 8.
- This system measures attainment progress in the same way as the new Progress 8 measure, which means that we are then able to calculate a progress and attainment score from term to term. For example, a cohort might arrive in year 7 with an attainment score of 4.2, based on their KS2 Sats. If their average at the end of year 11 was 5.2, they would have a Progress 8 score of +1.
- In 2015, King Solomon Academy’s Progress 8 was 1.63 – this was the best nationally. +1 is only achieved by about 100 schools.
- With Progress 8, 0 means pupils have made nationally average progress.
- You can’t use this progress measure to measure progress in individual lessons. For that, you need formative measures (see below)
- You can use it from term to term, but it will be more useful if you look at a cohort average than at individual pupils. EG, Y7 moved from an average grade of 4.2 at the start of Y7 to 4.5 at the end.
- When we are awarding these grades from term to term, we are making claims about how our pupils are doing against their national cohort. In order to make sure these claims are as robust as possible, we have to moderate within the network, use shared assessments, and reference externally wherever possible. We have three moderation days a year which help us do this.
Recording and sharing data
- We use the following dashboard to analyse pupil data.
- It has three columns, which record: 1) pupil progress against national expectations; 2) pupil attainment; 3) pupil progress against Ark expectations.
- Measuring progress against both national and Ark expectations allows to be both realistic and ambitious.
- Formative assessment is NOT measured using these grades. Formative assessment is separate. These grades are only used three times a year.
- Formative assessment is measured using subject-specific tasks, quizzes and trackers.