I’ve had a little read through the NAHT Assessment Review Group report, ‘Redressing the Balance.’ I thought there was ever such a lot of sense in what they are saying about data and assessment, but I’m left with the urge to wave a flag for teachers too. Leaders have a responsibility to protect their school and children from the negative affects of high stakes testing and data, as well as all the other government blunders of late, but teachers really need this too. Sometimes it’s as if teaches are the last thing anyone thinks about in education,when they are the bedrock. Teachers are not as effective when they are stressed and certainly their assessment practice will becomes corrupted if they are pressurised over data or meeting thresholds.
Take one idea at the beginning of the report:
“Raw data from statutory assessments should not be used to draw simplistic conclusions about a school’s performance or lead to heavy-handed intervention. This misuse is at the heart of many of today’s problems with assessment. Results from such assessments are a useful indicator of a need for further investigation and may reflect other in-school factors which are proven to influence pupil performance”
Can’t agree more! However, school leaders need to apply this wisdom to any hard data used in school. Imagine the above statement written with teachers in mind:
“Any data data should not be used to draw simplistic conclusions about a class’s or teacher’s performance or lead to heavy-handed intervention regarding the teacher’s performance management. This is at the heart of many of today’s problems with assessment for teachers. Results from testing and in-school data are a useful indicator of a need to further investigate and may reflect other factors which are proven to influence pupil performance like behaviour, social-emotional well being and home environment. Supporting improvements and making progress in these areas may not show immediate progress in academic learning, but will most often lead to great gains there later on. In this way, a class’s progress should be the subject of detailed professional dialogue alongside the use of data to inform before judgements are made.”
If school leaders are going to make assessment work – they can’t nod their heads to the NAHT ticking off the government and Ofsted for using data badly then turn around and use it in the exact same way on their teachers. If the misuse of data corrupts the system at one level then it will do the same everywhere else when it’s misused in the same way.
“Research therefore supports the fact that judgement of a school’s success or failure on the basis of statutory tests is unjust and unreliable”.
Again – imagine this rewritten for the humble class teacher:
“Judgements of a teacher’s success or failure on the basis of data alone is therefore unjust and unreliable.”
Please can we really think about this. I still hear toe-curling stories of teachers being pressurised for numbers rather than the focus being authentic progress in learning (these two are not always the same) and their performance being whittled down to an excel spreadsheet. In the TES today- 55% of teachers felt they had performance targets that were unrealistic and unachieveable. A whopping 79% felt their objectives contained requirements beyond their control. Why are leaders doing this to their teachers? The news that some teachers’ pay rises have been held back in 2016-17 based on the very questionable data from those ridiculous tests is simply absurd – did the head teachers also forgo their pay rises too? Someone needs to stick up for teachers here!
I’m all for holding teachers to account, we should, but hold them to account in a way that will ultimately benefit children’s learning first.