Progress is like the holy grail for primary schools.
Whether you’re in an inner city or leafy suburb, if pupils don’t make progress you’re in trouble. Even schools with healthy numbers of high attaining pupils have come unstuck in the past and been found to be coasting.
Under sub-levels there was a (fairly) global expectation of 3 points a year. A pupil gets a 2B in Year 2, gets a 4B in Year 6 and they’ve made expected progress. We all spoke the same language, but the system had its flaws, which is why it was dropped.
So what now? Well, after summer 2016 we finally got a glimpse of what schools were being measured against. In came Prior Attainment Groups, and at last some numbers to play with! Because we all love numbers don’t we? Key Stage progress nailed.
But what about in-year progress?
From our OTrack users, from discussions we have seen online, we generally tend to see the four following methods of showing progress:
The academic year 2014-15 was the last year that end of key stage assessments would be reported in the form of levels. The following year was one of OTrack’s biggest periods of growth in recent years, not surprising when we’ve always sold ourselves as customisable, exactly what the market needed in a period of change.
The first wave of schools that joined us wanted a points based system to replace levels. Completely understandable, given that the rug had been pulled from underneath their feet. Simple, break each programme of study down into 3 or 6 steps (one for each assessment point) and there’s your progress.
Then somebody went and mentioned greater depth didn’t they, and messed it all up. End of year expectation could no longer be point 6 on your 6-point scale, because that left no room for further progress. You couldn’t jump into the next programme of study, so that left a gap. What it also meant was that progress from last summer became tricky.
Some schools have got around this problem well, and continue to use points successfully by creating custom point scores, and having strict rules about what is a ‘secure’ or ‘greater depth’ pupil, for example.
But during that year we had identified that points-progress certainly wasn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution.
Target Setting and Progress Assessments
Schools have been target-setting for years. Even when we had sub levels it was good practice to set targets. Not every child learns at the same pace. Some need to have more challenge and therefore more aspirational targets, whilst others should not be expected to learn as quickly as their peers. By setting termly targets, you are making them personal to that pupil. Each child then has a flight path for the year that is both aspirational and achievable.
A good assessment system should then be able to tell you what number/percentage of pupils have exceeded, met or not met their targets, and be able to display this information for whole school, year groups, classes or contextual and user-defined groups.
Another option is to let the teacher decide, when they enter an assessment, whether that child is making good progress or not. This could be based on triangulation of evidence, based on robust formative assessment, testing and teacher judgment.
The beauty of tracking standardised scores is that it can work in the same way as end of Key Stage assessments. We are finding that many headteachers are keen to use this method as a way of solidifying assessment within school.
The idea behind this method is that the teacher records a standardised score as an outcome of a test. The school decides which score is deemed to be age-related, and the tracking system does the rest. As we all know, different subjects are tested differently, with varied numbers of questions. So, tracking systems need to be robust enough to cater for this.
Recording scores from a test, of course, helps with moderation. Many schools suffered at the end of KS2 tests in 2016 because they didn’t have an accurate view of where pupils were at. By backing up teacher assessment with testing, the problems can be identified a lot earlier, and interventions put in place before it is too late.
Progress can be shown by maintaining scores or making improvements in the tests. A good tracking system will then be able to map this data back to Prior Attainment Groups to show that pupils are making good progress.
Schools that use formative assessment well, can use this as a powerful tool to demonstrate progress.
It is massively reliant on a good volume of data being recorded, which in turn relies on teachers being able to engage with the software. When you get your curriculum right, and it suits the needs of your school, you can show attainment and progress across subjects and also aspects within those subjects. This can help with lesson planning and identifying the need for interventions, which in turn can only have a positive impact on children.
One thing is for sure. When schools are getting their HMI visits, good inspectors are asking to look at the books. That’s what real progress looks like.
So what next?
I will be holding a one-off webinar on Thursday March 22nd at 3.30pm in order to show you how these 4 methods can be utilised in OTrack. From data entry, through to report analysis, I will show you how the methods can work for your school, depending on how you currently assess. Some of the methods aren’t for everyone, but you will be able to see each in action and find out what are the best OTrack reports to use for analysis. You can register for the webinar here: REGISTER
Phone 01302 360246
Matt has worked in education for a number of years and has seen many changes in that time. None more so than the removal of levels. He has been involved with OTrack during a great period of growth. Optimum now employ over 30 staff in our office at Doncaster, South Yorkshire.