Mathematics assessment and the new National Curriculum

Clarity for parents, but confusion for schools? by Sarah-Anne Fernandes, Educational Consultant on the Rising Stars Assessment Mathematics Progress Tests

As schools grapple with the roll out of the new 2014 mathematics programmes of study for all year groups in the primary phase (except Years 2 and 6, which are exempt until September 2015), another major consideration for teachers is how mathematics will be assessed.

For teachers, arguably one of the most overwhelming challenges facing schools is the removal of levels to describe how a child is performing in mathematics across Years 1 to 6. The government’s biggest motivation for removing levels is based on parents not being able to understand level descriptors clearly and thus not knowing precisely how their child is performing in comparison to age-related expectations and also in relation to their peers. In response to this, the government will establish a standardised score scale system at the end of Key Stage 2 to help parents gain a better understanding of their child’s attainment.

The finer details of what this will actually look like are yet to be determined, but they are expected to be published by the Standards and Testing Agency in line with the new 2016 assessments. What we do know is that this standardised average scale score will be used to decipher if a pupil has met the ‘secondary readiness standard’ and will be one of the key measures that will be made available in the performance tables.

Apart from setting this scaled score at the end of Key Stage 2, the government will not be providing any further guidance or prescription as to how schools should track and assess pupils’ progress across the primary phase. Continue reading →

Statutory teacher assessment requirements from 2016

As well as stressing the importance of ongoing formative and summative teacher assessment, the DfE Reforming assessment and accountability for primary schools document also provides details of the statutory National Curriculum teacher assessments that will take place from summer 2016.

Key Stage 1

The subjects for which there will be statutory teachers assessment at Key Stage 1 are shown in the table below.

Subject Additional information
Reading TA informed by test scores
Writing TA informed by test score for GPS
Speaking and listening
Grammar, punctuation and spelling
Mathematics TA informed by test scores
Science

This is similar to current requirements but with the addition of teacher assessment of grammar, punctuation and spelling. Instead of a National Curriculum level, teachers will report teacher assessment results by deciding which new performance descriptor each pupil best meets.

Continue reading →

The Key Stage 1 National Tests from 2016

The frameworks are written primarily for test writers. They set out what will and will not be assessed by the statutory national tests, how each element will be assessed, the proposed structure of each test and what standard pupils will be expected to achieve. They are not designed to be used to guide teaching and learning or to inform statutory teacher assessment.

The draft frameworks for the new national assessments that will be introduced in summer 2016 are now available and can be downloaded from the gov.uk website

At Key Stage 1 there are frameworks for each of reading; grammar, punctuation and spelling; and mathematics. The key sections of each document are:

  • the nature of the test (particularly the test format)
  • the content to be assessed
  • the ‘cognitive domain’, in other words the thinking skills and intellectual processes to be assessed (e.g. problem solving, reasoning)
  • the test specification, including the performance descriptor.

It is very important to note that the tests do not cover all the content or skills of the National Curriculum for English and mathematics. The tests focus on what can be assessed in a paper-based, written test. The document states the areas of the curriculum that are outside the scope of the national tests and that need to be assessed by teacher assessment.

Each of the framework documents includes a performance descriptor that describes the ‘typical characteristics of children whose performance in the tests is at the threshold of the expected standard.’ These characteristics are intended as a general guide rather than as a prescriptive list and will be used by a panel of teachers to set the standards on the new tests in summer 2016. Continue reading →

The new National Curriculum: key dates for assessment

The new National Curriculum is now being taught and schools are working to establish assessment systems that work in a world without levels. The Department for Education will be releasing more information over the coming year and some aspects of the new arrangements will not take place for some time. The table below is a summary of the key dates for the next few years to help primary schools see what is happening and when.

Continue reading →

How Rising Stars New Curriculum Assessment meets the DfE’s new assessment principles

The DfE’s new assessment principles have been produced to help schools prepare to implement new assessment arrangements for tracking pupil progress against the new National Curriculum.

These principles are also designed to help schools choose published assessment resources from suppliers.

Together with the supporting Progress Trackers, the Rising Stars Progress Tests were specifically written to help schools track pupil progress in reading, grammar, punctuation and spelling, mathematics and science.

The summary table below identifies in detail how the Progress Tests meet each of the DfE assessment principles. Continue reading →

The DfE’s assessment principles

Following publication of their delayed response to the primary assessment and accountability consultation in March, the DfE have now published a set of core assessment principles to help schools prepare to implement new assessment arrangements for tracking pupil progress against the new National Curriculum. The document reminds schools that there will be no national system for doing this, but that schools will be expected to demonstrate (with evidence) their assessment of pupils’ progress so that they can keep parents informed, enable governors to make judgements about the school’s effectiveness and also to inform inspections by Ofsted.

The document states that ‘effective assessment systems’ should:

  1. give reliable information to parents about how their child, and their child’s school, is performing
  2. help drive improvement for pupils and teachers, and
  3. make sure the school is keeping up with external best practice and innovation.

These three principles are then broken down further.

Sue Walton, assessment consultant and part of the Rising Stars Assessment advisory team has examined these carefully and tried to unpick and explain the implications of them for schools (see the comments in italics below).

Note that ‘assessment system’ is not defined. Given what follows, it appears to refer to a school’s complete assessment regime.

  1. Reliable information for parents

This is broken down into four principles:

  1. a) Allow meaningful tracking of pupils towards end of key stage expectations in the new curriculum, including regular feedback to parents.

‘Meaningful’ is not defined but it implies regular assessments are being made and that schools are tracking how pupils are progressing against the Programme of Study for both their year group and the Key Stage. Continue reading →

Schools win funds to develop and share new ways of assessing pupils

A new package of pupil assessment methods, developed by teachers for teachers, was today (1 May 2014) unveiled by the government.

The new methods, one of which will use in-class apps, will help schools easily and accurately chart pupils’ attainment and progress so they can provide effective, targeted support where it is needed, and will give parents clearer information about their child’s performance and progress.

Continue reading →

To level or not to level

For many of us, levels are an intrinsic part of the National Curriculum. We’ve come to view the notion of progression through levels from the ages of 5 to 14 as a key element of teaching and assessment. We’re also used to being held accountable for the progress made, and justifying the work we do, by identifying how the pupils we teach are now working at a higher level.

It’s a vagary of the calendar, but not one that my own children are reluctant to exploit, that I started teaching not only in the previous century but in the previous millennium (thanks guys). It’s certainly true that I taught in a pre-National Curriculum levels system; whereas there was more freedom, I’m not sure we used it well and I’m certainly not inclined to hark back to it with longing (apart from the music).

ASSESSING PROGRESS AND OUTCOMES AGAINST THE NEW NATIONAL CURRICULUM

We’re now faced with the challenge of deciding how best to assess progress and outcomes through new programmes of study. There’s no expectation to use levels, but we do need to track pupils effectively.

Which way now?

I think it’s important to start with looking at the purposes of assessment. I would suggest that there are multiple outcomes and that a good system needs to provide all of these. In essence we need to use assessment to:

  • inform next steps in teaching
  • provide meaningful feedback to pupils on what they’ve done well and how to improve
  • provide evidence for accountability
  • communicate to parents and carers how their children are doing.

Are levels (or a reworked system thereof) the answer?  What do they offer? Continue reading →