Statistics, data and assessment….or weighing pigs.

 

‘A pig does not get fatter the more you weigh it.’ Anon.

Yesterday I was involved in a discussion around the way we collect data and statistics around pupils with additional support needs.

It got me thinking about the issues around the processes for recording, assessing and diagnosing within education.

And I have not found it an easy think.

I know that lots of much cleverer and more famous people have written a lot about the issues of assessment and use of data and that I could look at such literature to inform my thinking.

But for this post, I want to try and establish some basic ideas for myself, before I am influenced by the thinking of others.

My thinking is based on my experience as an educator of over 20 years, the reading and research that I have done to date and my wider life experience.

I have written previously about my thoughts on the purpose of education: http://staffrm.io/@lenabellina/GIDOPZO01f

What I am writing today links in some ways with that, as we surely need to be clear about purpose before we attempt to measure, assess or evaluate.

To help my limited and easily confused brain, I am going to start from the perspective of a teacher and her class.

I am a German teacher. In my S1 class I have 2 pupils: Tom and Sam.

Tom has a diagnosis of autism and a learning disability. Sam has autism and high cognitive functioning.

Tom’s parents do not want any fuss made over the fact that he has autism and want him to be treated in the same way as all his class mates.

Sam’s parents are keen that there is awareness amongst all in his life of his autism, the differences in his thinking, his autistic qualities and his intelligence.

Why do I need to know about these boys and their autism?

I need to know about them in the same way as I need to know about all of the pupils in my class. I need to know that they are two of twenty-four who will need a desk and chair in my classroom, a jotter, a vocab book and other resources and access to a laptop from time to time. I need to know about their personalities, qualities and learning needs.

But in addition, I need to know about their autism so that I ensure that I have a good understanding of autism and differentiate my teaching and approach accordingly.

Why will I want to assess their progress?

So that I can judge whether they are learning (developing skills and knowledge) and whether I am teaching effectively. So that I can be sure that they are happy, healthy and doing the best they can.

What will the standard (benchmark) be against which I will measure this progress?

I will have an idea of the type of progress expected by a child learning German as a second foreign language in the first year of secondary school on a diet of 2 periods a week. But above all I will consider the progress that Tom and Sam are able to make in relation to their own baseline (a value-added approach) and assess it in a range of ways that do not rely on one method such as a written test.

Why will it help Tom and Sam and their parents to know about their learning and progress?

So that they can play a part in their learning and progress and also, when they get to S4 or S6 and leave school, so that they can provide a future employer or educator with information about their skills, knowledge and qualities. So that their parents can be sure that they are happy, healthy and doing the best they can.

I am principal teacher of languages.

Why do I need to know about these boys and about their autism?

So that I can ensure that I manage the resources within my department effectively. I need to order the correct number of jotters and other resources and budget accordingly and make sure that the class has the correct accommodation within the department for the number of pupils. I need to ensure that the class teacher has knowledge and understanding of autism or support the teacher who has this class to develop such knowledge and understanding

Why will I want assessment information about their progress?

So that I can be clear that progress is being made. So that I can evaluate the work of the class teacher and undertake quality assurance activities. So that I can ensure best value in terms of resources being deployed in my department. So that I can judge whether I am leading and managing my department effectively. So that I can be sure that they are happy, healthy and doing the best they can.

I am a principal teacher of support for learning.

Why do I need to know about these boys and about their autism?

So that I can ensure that I manage the resources within my department effectively. I will need to consider the possible interventions that may be needed to ensure that the boys make progress and deploy staff and resources from my department accordingly. I will need to ensure that the class teacher has knowledge and understanding of autism or support the teacher who has this class to develop such knowledge and understanding.

Why will I want assessment information about their progress?

So that I can be clear that progress is being made. So that I can evaluate the work of the staff supporting the pupils and undertake quality assurance activities. So that I can ensure best value in terms of resources being deployed in my department. So that I can judge whether I am leading and managing my department effectively. So that I can be sure that they are happy, healthy and doing the best they can.

I am head teacher.

Why do I need to know about these boys and about their autism?

So that I can ensure that I manage the resources within my school effectively. As part of my number on roll, these pupils will influence the funding and resourcing I get for my school. They may also influence additional resourcing and staffing that I access to support targeted interventions to address their additional support needs. I need to know about their autism so that I can ensure that staff in my school have the knowledge and understanding required to support them. Whilst every school should be an inclusive and autism-friendly school, I am more likely to deploy my training budget to do work around autism if I know that I have pupils in my school with autism.

Why will I want assessment information about their progress?

So that I can be clear that progress is being made. So that I can evaluate the work of the staff supporting the pupils and undertake quality assurance activities. So that I can ensure best value in terms of resources being deployed in my school. So that I can judge whether I am leading and managing my school effectively. So that I can be sure that they are happy, healthy and doing the best they can.

I am inclusion manager for the local authority.

Why do I need to know about these boys and about their autism?

So that I can ensure that I manage the resources within my department effectively. I will need to consider the possible interventions that may be needed to ensure that the boys make progress and deploy staff and resources from my team accordingly. So that I can make budget decisions and plan my future budget needs accordingly.

Why will I want assessment information about their progress?

So that I can be clear that progress is being made. So that I can undertake quality assurance activities. So that I can ensure best value in terms of resources being deployed. So that I can judge whether I am leading and managing my team effectively. So that I can be sure that they are happy, healthy and doing the best they can.

I am cabinet secretary for education.

Why do I need to know about these boys and about their autism?

So that I can ensure that I manage the resources within Scottish Education effectively. I will need to consider the possible interventions that may be needed to ensure that they make progress and allocate funding accordingly. So that I can make budget decisions and plan my future budget needs accordingly. So that I can ensure that the Scottish Education system is genuinely true to the principles of Curriculum for Excellence. So that we do not favour a written summative assessment over all else. So that a National One is as valued as a National Five. So that we have assessment standards that are more based on narrative than numbers. So that teachers know the standards because investment has been made in robust moderation and standardisation activities and in creating a state of the art online assessment resource.

Why will I want assessment information about their progress?

So that I can be clear that progress is being made. So that I can undertake quality assurance activities. So that I can ensure best value in terms of resources being deployed. So that I can judge whether I am leading and managing Scottish Education effectively. So that I can be sure that they are happy, healthy and doing the best they can.

Assessment, data and statistics are part of the system by which we make judgements about pupils, their teachers and the quality of education itself. They do not drive the system but must support it. And they must be the right types of assessment, data and statistics,

Is it rocket science?

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