Assessment Without Levels Commission Report – a few of my favourite things

Like many others I was very disappointed to learn that the DfE had delayed publishing this report until the new academic year so I was both surprised and excited (a bit sad, I know) when I got a friendly nudge on Twitter this morning pointing me in the direction of the “leaked” report dropbox.com/s/wzl6ycooh8pw… via @warwickmansell @GuardianEdu.

My first response was to retweet (obviously) and then email some friends, colleagues and the other members of our PLC. Then I followed Harry Fletcher-Wood’s reading reflection log via @HFletcherWood and then read his summary here http://improvingteaching.co.uk/2015/07/28/the-assessment-commission-report-13-key-points/. Well, I’ve now finally got round to reading the report myself and also felt compelled to put my response in print. So, in the words of Julie Andrews, here are a few of My Favourite Things:
Julie Andrews

  1. First off, I like the tone of this report; I feel like the ethics and beliefs demonstrated by the Commission sit very comfortably with my own principles regarding assessment. I would heartily recommend sharing the report with others and use it to stimulate discussion and explore collective thinking within and across organisations.
  2. An impressively comprehensive, yet concise, demolition of the way that NC levels became the dominant assessment discourse both within schools and across our system in England.
  3. Directly tackling the use of the term “mastery” by so many fledgling assessment approaches and explaining very clearly the need for a shared understanding of what that actually means (something I have blogged about previously). The explicit reference to Bloom, Kulik and Guskey in defining mastery as “something which every child can aspire to and every teacher should promote” is really helpful.
  4. I was reminded of that fab little movie from QCA (when Mick Waters was director) that used the analogy of viewing the Mona Lisa to explain the three “lenses” of assessment whilst reading about the three overarching forms of assessment; day-to-day, local summative and nationally standardised (pg.13). The remainder of this section of the report is structured as purposes (statements) followed by principles (questions) for school leaders and teachers to use to facilitate the development of effective assessment practice. There’s also further guidance on developing a fit for purpose assessment policy.
  5. “The purpose of summative assessment is to evaluate pupils’ learning and progress at the end of a period of teaching. It may have multiple audiences, including pupils themselves, parents, teachers, school leaders and inspectors, and each may have different requirements for the kinds of assessment data that should be collected and how it should be analysed and presented.” (Pg.26) I think this is key for school leaders when designing the structure and form of data-collection; how can we meaningfully share this information in an appropriate and useful way for different stakeholders without creating unnecessary workload? As someone about to join the SLT of my new school this is something that has really resonated with me. I need to think about this.
  6. The specific section addressing the weaknesses in current ITT provision with regards to developing knowledge and confidence around assessment is blunt and honest. The report goes on to acknowledge how the wide-ranging and broad landscape of CPD providers woulds benefit from quality assuring “system leaders” and “leading teachers” to enable effective “collaborative professional learning.” This is an approach we have adopted in Windsor & Maidenhead, with colleagues from a range of schools developing their thinking and practice together (the PLC) and then sharing with others through social media, network meetings and a conference.
  7. Intelligent and eminently do-able Next Steps, including the concept of establishing a “national item bank of assessment questions.” Not a surprise if you’ve been following Daisy Christodoulou’s recent series of blogs about asking the right questions to establish a learner’s security and depth of understanding: https://thewingtoheaven.wordpress.com/2015/07/26/principled-assessment-design-by-dylan-wiliam/

I know this is just half the size of the 13 points that Harry so thoroughly explores (thanks for the model text @HFletcherWood!) but I hope it is of interest to some.

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