Dr Jo-Anne Baird's response to Expert Group Report on assessment in schools
Press release issued: 7 May 2009
Dr Jo-Anne Baird from the University of Bristol’s Graduate School of Education was appointed by the Government's Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to advise the Expert Group on future assessment and accountability systems for primary and secondary schools. Their report was released this week [Thursday 7 May] and here she gives her reaction to its recommendations.
The Expert Group has made a number of recommendations that will increase the level of teacher assessment.
· Assessment for Learning should be promoted, including the use of ‘Assessing Pupil Progress’
· Key Stage 2 Science should be teacher-assessed
· Instead of Key Stage 3 national testing, tests will be made available to teachers for their own use
Whilst welcoming this move towards teacher assessment, Dr Baird supported the Expert Group’s recommendations for more professional development of teachers in this area, saying: “We now have a generation of teachers who have worked in a system where testing was the responsibility of the Government. Knowing what your students have learned is essential to good teaching, so it is important that teachers are given the right professional development to produce assessments that measure pupils’ learning and indicate to the teachers what they need to teach next. Weak assessments would give teachers the wrong impressions altogether about what students know.”
The Expert Group have advised that ‘Assessing Pupil Progress’ (APP) materials should form part of the strategy. Dr Baird warns that the existing materials need further work to avoid them becoming a bureaucratic burden upon teachers. The APP materials currently require far too many judgments to be made about individual pupils for them to be integrated into classroom practices in a way that is helpful to teaching and learning.
Development of basic skills
‘Primary Graduation Certificates’, to be issued at the end of primary schooling were recommended by the Expert Group, along with measures to improve the transition to secondary school of those with below-average performance for their age. Dr Baird welcomed these proposals, but indicated that they might need to go further, adding: "For reasons of equality of opportunity, our education system prioritises exposure of pupils to the curriculum over ensuring that they have mastered the basics. If pupils have not learned to read, write and count, we move them on to the next phase with their year group. That means that some people leave school without the literacy and numeracy skills required for life. We really need to question how we deal with this in schools.”
Key Stage 3
Continuing to pilot the Single Level Tests, rather than rushing to implement them was also welcomed, as was the reduction in testing by sampling at Key Stage 3 rather than assessing all pupils. Both initiatives require considerable development work if they are to meet their aims.
Dr Jo-Anne Baird is a Reader in Educational Assessment and the Director of the Centre for Assessment and Learning Studies at the University of Bristol’s Graduate School of Education.