Thanks to our guest blogger and Deputy Head teacher Michael Tidd for the following article.
Where do you keep yours? We all have them somewhere, often hidden out of view, but ready to be pulled out and used at any moment.
I’m talking, of course, of old test papers. They’re usually stacked in a cupboard somewhere, often in increasingly-tatty boxes with hastily-scrawled labels on them. In many cases, there are papers there that are older than the children in our classrooms. Chances are, there’ll be at least one for which the mark scheme has long since disappeared.
It’s time to let go. It’s hard, but necessary. Clear the shelf-space, fill the recycling bin, and enter the brave new world. They’re redundant, like it or not, and their time has passed. If it helps, keep a copy of each for posterity. After all, it seems harsh to discard Evelyn Glennie and Sharon Brown the lorry driver entirely.
Why am I urging the previously unthinkable? Because the new curriculum is here, the new tests are on the horizon, and assessment needs to change. We know that the tests are now useless as a predictor of success in the new tests: for a start, a level is meaningless in the new word of scaled scores. More importantly, the tests no longer assess the content we are required to teach.
There’ll be those who argue that sitting a test is still good practice. And I agree. But there are new tests that match the new curriculum that serve this need more effectively. Others will say that the questions are still a good assessment tool, and there I agree again. But sitting three maths test papers for the benefit of a handful of diagnostic points is overkill. Why make children sit through papers with questions on probability and modal averages that they’ll not need to reach the expected standard for at the end of the Key Stage?
And don’t even get me started on writing a play script about being allowed to stay up. I still bear the scars of marking 300 of them.
The most important change of the new curriculum and its assessment should be the shift away from generic points-based assessment systems towards assessment that should be focussed on what children can and can’t do based on the curriculum they’ve been taught. The problem with using old test papers is that often we find that the areas they struggle with are those they’ve not yet been taught. That’s obvious to the point of redundancy.
Still finding it hard to let go? The only possible reason I could see for keeping the old test papers would be if you were willing to sit with your scissors and glue and cut out each question, finding those which matched requirements of the new curriculum, discarding those that didn’t, and then attempting to construct tests of your own. Except, of course, there are gaps. Plenty of them.
Where are the questions about multiplying fractions? Where is the long division practice? How will you assess children’s ability to use the passive voice or fronted adverbials?
What we need is new questions that match the new requirements of the curriculum. Enter Rising Stars Assessment Bank. Questions that you can search for in seconds, and select at the click of a button; tests you can produce to match exactly what you’ve taught; assessments that help you to devise the best curriculum for the pupils in your class. And importantly, in these days of workload, someone else has done all the work of writing for and matching to the new curriculum. You can even search by Rising Stars Progression Framework statements to find questions for the gaps you’ve identified in your other assessments.
Of course, if you’d prefer to sit with your scissors and glue, and write your own questions to fill the gaps, then no-one’s stopping you. But that cupboard won’t get any tidier!