This is my little rant about how grade boundaries are set, and comparability. It does not affect only maths but other subjects as well. It is a follow up to the announcement that ofqual asked Pearson to change the boundaries so the percentages passing did not vary too much, and a whole load of other blogs, comments etc. Also it is after the secret teacher article from the former head of history who a few years ago results dipped.
I understand the logic behind making sure we do not have grade inflation hence why it is done. However this idea and the logic behind it goes against one of the core principles I believe in, the more you practice (meaningfully) the better you become. Over the past 10 years while I have been teaching I have seen the following improve students ability to gain marks on a maths paper.
More maths lesson a week surely this has had an effect lots of school have increased the number of maths lessons by 30% plus. Hence these students should be gaining 30% more marks
Technology, students get better feedback and are able to learn better on their own
QLA driven improvements to how teachers teach. Teachers look at what they teach less effectively and teach it better.
QLA driven improvements in feed back, students given higher support on individual weaknesses
Tracking sheets and PLCs we really analyse what students can and can not do to teach them what they can not do.
Higher teacher collaboration Internet, Twitter, blogs etc.
This means students should be doing a lot better and getting a greater proportion of higher grades as they can do more.
So there has over the past 3 years a very subtle increasing challenge in gaining a certain grade for the young people I teach are this year I saw a few more students who were better at maths than previous peers measured by past papers, in class, effort and homework, achieve a lower grade.
What ofqual does in comparing proportions with each board is becoming fairly meaningless as some schools doing different boards for different students. E.g ocr foundation papers for c/d borderline students, edexcel higher for b/c borders and Aqa for a/b borders as teachers feel it is easier for some grades with some boards, due the proportion of grammar schools doing this board, London schools doing that board etc. An example is this was most prevalent with the end of the modular GCSE. as this increased the difficulty level of gaining a C on the linear as lots of sucessful C chasing schools used modular
What needs to happen in my opion
One exam board everyone does the same,
No higher/foundation papers everyone does the same
Fix the assessment criteria and design the questions to test them properly, like the old sats papers. Each paper should then have the same amount of marks at each grade, fix the grade boundaries. Test the questions in small samples.
Write the next 10 years papers (although context and actual numbers may need to change in AO3 questions) , leave it alone and see what has happened
Please let’s alter the system to make it clear and visible so every knows what a young person must have done to succeed.
Please let have no moaning about grade boundaries etc the current system is setup so that to tread water with your results you will need to work harder than last year, as other schools will also be improving, working harder, making their students work harder etc. So we need to alter the system. The system must be open transparent and fixed.