Scottish Exam Shambles ...

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andy-hughes | 16:22 Wed 12th Aug 2020 | Jobs & Education
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If I lean out of my window and listen carefully, I can hear the sound of wheels grinding, as the Scottish Education Department reverses its grading process as fast as it possibly can.

The question is, given that the average adult with basic intelligence could see this disaster a mile off, the use of computers is never a good idea in these set-ups, and given that teachers have spent months flogging themselves to give predicted grades to their students whom they are best qualified to assess, having taught them, why did anyone think a computer was needed to calculate grades anyway?

What have the exam board staffs being doing since March? I cannot believe there are not sufficient qualified exam markers to make a better assessment than a machine working on faulty and inappropriate data.

Time for the Education Secretary to go - he is the worst ever, and lord knows, he has had some stiff competition!!!

Anyone remember Ruth Kelly?


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do teachers receive performance related pay? if yes, wouldn't it be the case that they are incentivised to big up the performance of their pupils?
Not performance related pay but school league tables.
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They don't, and if there is any sense in the world, they never will.

To produce performance-related data, you need a standard measure of a standard item, batteries, cars, pencils, apples, and so on.

You can never standardize education and achievement levels because pupils are individuals and so is the measure of their achievement.

Successive governments have tried to run education as though it's a business with 'targets' and piffle like 'Parent Power' and they have all failed.

Education is seen as a vote winner because voters have all been to school so they think they know something about it, which they don't.

Governments appeal to parents as 'Consumers Of Education' which of course they are not.

Children are the consumers of education, but children don't vote, so they don't matter.
We'll never forget Ruth here in Bolton.

Wasn't there a thread on the Exam debacle yesterday?
I suspect that the relevant authorities were working on the not unreasonable assumption that any given year group is not going to be all that different, in terms of overall attainment, from the year before it. Whatever else you think of the decision, the effect has been that the pass rate in Scotland in 2020 is something like 10-15 percentage points higher than it was in 2019. That is an insane increase and speaks either to the failure of exams to properly assess students, or to the failure of teachers in managing their expectations. And probably the first of these, because an exam is about how good you are over a few hours rather than how good you are over a few months.
I heard on the radio in the afternoon that 40% of the grades for pupils in England had been changed.
ANDY, you asked, why did anyone think a computer was needed to calculate grades anyway?"

Perhaps it's because teachers over-estimate?

In 2016, a study of predicted v actual A-Level results in England, found that of 858,835 students in 2013-15, 75.41% were over-predicted and only 16.05% were accurate.

With that information, what alternative would you suggest?
this didn't seem particularly shambolic, the government apologised and backtracked very promptly.

Enabling England to do much the same even more quickly, pretty much the first time they've seen what's coming and done something about it. I don't think there's any right answer to all this, Covid's messed everything up, and all anyone can do is make the best of a bad job.
Personally, and having worked in schools in a non teaching capacity, I don't trust teachers to assess results for quite good reasons. Teachers can be very biased against students that don't conform to their expected norms. e.g. Some brilliant kids that perform well in exams but are nightmares in the classroom and coursework, for many reasons, will suffer from assessments. Exams are not perfect to judge, but they are the best way.
jim360 is spot on. On the whole teachers do not deliberately overstate grades, although it's not hard to see why a few will try, but teachers overall are more likely to err on the side of optimism. Jonny would be upset if the teachers thought he had a 50% chance of an A but put the prediction as B

I'm not sure how the process worked but my view is that teachers should have been asked to provide more than a single predicted grade: something like Annie's Maths prediction is 50% A, 50% B whereas Billy's is 80%A, 20% B... and Zac's is 60% A, 40% B. In each case if only one prediction is submitted the teacher would reasonably predict an A but when the exam authorities compare the predicted grades for the whole school with the average of the last few years they may conclude there are too many As. So they start to tweak them and consequently Annie might be given a B instead.

Alternatively schools should have been given a grade distribution and told "you are only allowed to give (say) 20-25 As, 30-35 Bs, 50-60Cs, 30-40 Ds, 20-30 Es" and they would have had to make the difficult decisions.

So, whilst predicted grades clearly need to be standardised in some way to ensure fairness between schools and with previous years, the method wasn't thought through. The shambles is that it wasn't realised that pupils like Annie (and her teacher) would be upset to be given less than the predicted grade. All this should have been modelled weeks earlier and an approach agreed in advance on how to explain and sell it.
I have never understood why exam boards don't just give grades based upon the percentiles of marks attained.

That way, if only the top ten per cent get the highest grade, it doesn't matter if the questions are harder or easier than in other years.
corbs, I don't understand that?
All the candidates are ranked in order of their marks from lowest to highest.

If the top ten per cent get the highest grade and there were 100,000 taking the exam, the 10,000 (ten per cent of 100,000) with the highest scores would get the highest grade.

If the questions were relatively easier than previous exams, the scores would be higher but still only the top 10,000 would get the highest grade.

If the exam were harder than in previous years, the marks would be lower and the top 10,000 would get the highest grade still.

It's all based upon how they perform when compared to everyone else who took the same exam.
A shorter explanation would be if a candidate got a mark higher than 90% of those who took the exam, the highest grade would be awarded, regardless of the actual mark.
isn't that what they do anyway? The problem is that no one took the exams
If they did, why are there complaints of exams being easier, meaning a higher percentage getting the highest grade
I think the problem with Corby's system is that it turns it into a straight-up competition against everybody else, rather than against your past self, and I think exams should be more about the second than the first. The fact that other people are sitting this exam should have no bearing on my ability to perform well at it. Imagine a student unexpectedly scoring 85% having worked really hard, but unfortunately 10,000 other students scored 86%, so despite all that they get a B rather than an A. Why even have the pretence of grades in this system? Just issue everybody a ranking instead. "Congratulations, you were the 17,285th best student at this exam!"

In the present system, grade inflation is clearly also a problem, but it's not entirely impossible that this is partly because teachers get better at teaching the material, pupils get access to more resources (past papers etc), and so on, so it's also possible that grade inflation is a reflection of people becoming better at the exam.
Putting the Covid issue aside and just looking at grade inflation generally, there must be a number of reasons why we have had grade inflation over the years.

One factor has been that it is very much in the interests of governments (and OFSTED) and the education establishment to show continuous improvement each year so they can show policies are working (imagine the criticism of government if grades were to fall for say 2 years running). There will be some unconscious bias to achieve it but also no doubt some pressure put upon them to show higher grades.

But it's also true that schools are preparing students far better. When I did Maths O level at a grammar school in the 1970s we were just left to get on with our revision. I scraped a pass in my mock, then revised hard and bought a book of some past papers to help me as schools had no copying facilities so we never saw past papers at school. I took the exam not really knowing what result I'd get. I was delighted to get the top grade. Nowadays the whole of year 11 is spent doing past papers and tracking progress. Students regularly work through past papers and use all the online and printed exam style questions for homeworks, and then in the final weeks revision classes are held in breakfast clubs, after school clubs, half term holidays.
They should all take a year (or more) off. Go travel to the four corners of the garden to broaden the mind, maybe take web courses to expand it. Then take the exam and get a grade when all's settled down. No moans of unfairness then.
It doesn't much matter if teaching improves. Exams are basically to prove a decent understanding of the subject and the ability to grasp information and understand it. This ability isn't likely to change from one year to the next so varying the grade pass marks to achieve the same profile of passes in each every time is the way to achieve that with no grade information.

If grade inflation is occurring then that indicates we have incompetent folk judging the results, and they need replacing. Because the grades no longer indicate what they should, and recent students have been given a life advantage over past students.

(Thankfully exam results become less important as a CV of achievement is created.)

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