From 2016 the Key Stage 2 tests will no longer be reported as levels but as what the DfE are calling ‘a precisely scale score’. Right now, with those tests more than a year away, we are struggling with the semantics. What is meant by ‘precisely’? Oh, and what is meant by ‘scaled’? And, while we’re at it, what exactly is this ‘score’? In typical government-speak we have clarity and obfuscation in equal measure.
What we do know is that we have moved from criterion referencing to norm referencing. This means, helpfully, that while we once knew what the criteria were, now we haven’t a clue where the norm will be set. That’s what norm referencing means – it’s about the performance of the individual in the context of the whole population. So, you can’t get a clear idea of the norm until everyone has sat the test. Forget target setting! It’s a bit like waiting for the threshold tables in the current system.
The DfE has said that a rising average will challenge each pupil and each school each year but this sounds a bit scarier than it really is. Face it – and HMI Ofsted are doing so – there’s going to be a bit of a gap between the Y6 performance of your present Year 5 and the content of the new national curriculum but this is true for us all. There is bound to be a gap but there’s not a specific knowledge target, no pass mark; it’s a norm. And the norm is about everybody’s performance. So, of course the norm will rise. Initially it will rise because kids will have covered more and more of the new curriculum content and so can answer more and more of the questions. Of course, if there is a rising average after that you could be right to feel scared!
So…a precise score? It’s going to be a standard score – not an age weighted one – so the expectation is 100 but the scatter of scores will be around that figure. The best could score 120, the weakest perhaps 80. Precisely.
So, by thinking about ‘precisely’ we seem to have pretty much summed up both ‘scaled’ and ‘score’. We won’t know exactly what this looks like in practice until May 2016 but it’s probably not something to lose a lot of sleep over. Now, progress, well that’s another thing! Sweet dreams.
John Viner has enjoyed over two decades of successful leadership and is now an additional Ofsted inspector and educational consultant. He provides the inside knowledge that headteachers and school leaders need to self-evaluate their school efficiently.