Schools have a duty to let parents and carers know how well their children are doing. But assessment is complicated and there are important concepts which are challenging to explain. A child’s score is straightforward, but not what the score means. We can describe how well a child is performing in relation to others in the class, but generally not how they performing compared to their peers nationally and internationally. Even if we can compare within a subject, it is difficult to compare between subjects. Finally, we’d like to be clear about how confident we are in the result: does it really tell us how well the child is doing?
So, how can we provide useful information to parents clearly and honestly?
Our approach at Paradigm Trust
We have spent a lot of time trying to address the issues above and we’ve developed some strategies.
- We standardise our assessments so that a score of 100 is our threshold for expected (the same as the Key Stage 2 SATs), and our score of 110 is the threshold for greater depth. This is familiar to parents whose children have done their SATs. It allows parents to compare how their child is performing in different subjects. Where possible, we tie our 100 and 110 scores to national standards. (I will describe how we do this in a future post).
- For each assessment, we calculate the standard error of measurement – SEM (I described SEM in this post and will explain how we calculate it in a post next week). We know an assessment doesn’t give us perfect precision and we can measure the uncertainty. We want parents to understand that if a child scored 105 in October and 103 in February, their child probably isn’t falling behind.
- We present the data to parents as a chart. The top edge of the box shows the highest likely performance of the child and the bottom shows the lowest.
In the plot above, you can see that the pupil is working towards the expected standard in science, but is clearly between expected and greater depth in RE. The boxes which straddle the 100 line show that the pupil is broadly at the expected standard – one assessment might put them slightly above, another slightly below.
We still provide traditionally worded performance descriptors, but we hope that over time parents and carers will find the chart clear, helpful and honest.