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Data reports in secondary schools - how accurate are they?

(14 Posts)
meagle Thu 08-Nov-12 22:51:31

Each term at secondary school our DS, now year 11, receives a data report. He always gets fairly average grades, eg, C working grades, B/C for effort, etc, so there I was, thinking he would get Cs for his GCSEs. But his year 10 assessments / GCSE units were dismal - all Es and Fs. Now I'm scared that he's going to fail the lot and that we've been too complacent, blinkered by these reporting systems that imply he's doing ok. Do other schools have this system? Or are there other ways of knowing how your kids are doing at school?

Dominodonkey Thu 08-Nov-12 23:10:59

This sounds very stupid, but it depends on schools and even individual teachers. Some are very keen to say a child has got a c in one assessment so they are a c. I always underestimate at the start to give room for error. They may be a c on one thing and then a d
Or e on others. It generally depends on the subject- English has so many skills it is very hard to be accurate until year 11.

meagle Fri 09-Nov-12 16:04:49

That's interesting. My feeling is that the grades are on the optimistic side, putting a positive spin on things... But perhaps I'm being cynical!

wellInever2 Fri 09-Nov-12 16:14:07

Tracking and targeting is expected by Ofsted, teachers have to produce evidence that they are using this kind of assessment data when observed during inspections. Reporting systems are now big business in education, schools are required to provide parents with either paper or/and online reports. My experience is that you should take any data reports received with a pinch of salt. I would always advise that you question teachers carefully to see whether they can justify the data produced, it can be a work of fiction as you have found out.

titchy Fri 09-Nov-12 16:18:44

In ks4 our school gives GCSE grades at that point in time, so Xmas year 10 might be graded E, D by the end of year 10, C/D border in jan year 11 and therefore expected to achieve C in the actual exam in May. Is that it maybe - so the grades are wht they would get if they sat the exam NOW?

noblegiraffe Fri 09-Nov-12 16:32:27

Does he not have predicted grades? I.e. what the teacher reckons he would get at GCSE if he continues working the way he is? That would be useful, and if not provided, might be worth asking the teacher about.

wellInever2 Fri 09-Nov-12 16:42:36

How accurate the data and predictions are depends on the teacher and school/academy involved. Accurate marking depends on the skill and integrity of the teacher. As said before question teachers carefully to see if they can justify the data reports provided.

meagle Fri 09-Nov-12 18:34:01

His predicted grades are all Cs, but after doing so badly in his tests (and being downgraded from Gcse science to Btec without any consultation with parents or pupil) I'm not confident they're accurate. Have tried to engage with school about this & was told it was due to him not being taught to answer exam questions - which I think is crap, as by year 11 isn't it all getting a bit late? I just wonder what all the really great schools do - do they have the same system and are better / more honest in their predictions, or do they have a different way of feeding back?

TheFallenMadonna Fri 09-Nov-12 18:42:35

Valid assessment data is tricky. I teach Science. We do end of unit tests, using past paper questions, and using the grade boundaries for those exams + maybe 5%, so slightly harsher. However, we rely on our students revising for exams. It's easier to remember one topic than it is to remember the 10 there will be in the exam, and if they don't revise, well, they won't do well.

We also assess various skills that are assessed in the exams, and track how well they do in those. For us, that is the most useful information, as it is where our input makes a real difference. But we can't grade those really. And grades are what everyone (SLT, OFSTED, parents) wants to see.

greyvix Fri 09-Nov-12 21:29:59

It depends what is being assessed. In my experience, at the start of GCSE, grades will be pretty positive, as the students will have been very well prepared for controlled assessment, and they know the questions. (I am an English teacher).
However, with the change of grade boundaries in June, and the change in focus from controlled assessment to exam preparation and practice in year 11, grades will drop. (Ours also dropped at the end of year 10, which was the students' first experience of an authentic exam.)
If you are concerned, ask what assessment objectives were used. A good teacher/ school will be able to tell you how the grade was calculated. For example, for us, year 10 will be primarily controlled assessment, while year 11 will be largely exam practice and timed essays, with some controlled assessment factored in.
Most students will only just be starting exam practice, so what the school is telling you is true.

meagle Fri 09-Nov-12 22:42:34

Thanks for the info Greyvix. So, if I understand you correctly, what you're saying is that although he's consistently got Cs for working & predicted grades, this doesn't actually mean that he will get them in an exam situation. I find it all very misleading, as what parents really want to know by yr 10&11 is whether or not their kid is likely to pass and if not, what is stopping them - and crucially, is there time to change the outcome? I guess now I need to talk to individual teachers to get the real picture, rather than rely on the data reports.
Thanks to all the posters for your feedback.

noblegiraffe Fri 09-Nov-12 22:54:34

Teachers can't predict the future. Exam predicted grades are not a science and gut feeling is involved, as is relying on experience. Suddenly predicting a C grade kid a D can set off all sorts of klaxons so there might be a reluctance to do this, especially if the kid could get a C. Were there not any comments on the report to suggest that your DS needs a boot up the backside? Targets for improvement?

meagle Sat 10-Nov-12 08:47:58

No, the reports are just letters - there's no written detail with them - and his effort grades are good so we assume he's working hard. We get a written report once a year and this didn't raise concerns.

greyvix Sat 10-Nov-12 18:32:13

Your son has plenty of time to turn this around. When is the parents' evening, as this would be the ideal time to discuss the situation? As a rough guide, we would expect a grade improvement between the December mocks and the Summer exams, although some students exceed this (though students who aren't working don't).
If it was me, I'd arrange to see the head of year, or some of the teachers, as they will be able to advise. Good luck.

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