Exams ‘fiasco’ latest: Prof will fixit!

Do these books make my brain look big?

Ed: Headline is mine.

From indyref2soon

Professor Lindsay Paterson seems to think he knows how to fix it (BBC Radio Scotland this morning) – he says to use teacher’s grading if based on a Prelim exam.

Prelims are of varying standard and in a lot of cases sat a couple of months into the school year – genius! Some were done less then a third of the way through the curriculum. Some schools sat them in March – Apples and Pears!

Also, teachers were instructed not to do that for obvious reasons.

He seems to dislike the SQA – who he judges are to blame, not John Swinney, and characterises them as mere “bureaucrats & statisticians” – a tad OTT?

[Ed: Deep irony too as he is essentially bean counter who trained in counting cows and chickens]

It’s a large organisation, and they do have rather a lot of “managerial types” – but also head teachers and other educational professionals at high levels in the organisation.

The SQA also havs Grahame Smith (Former General Secretary, Scottish Trades Union Congress) on the Board of Management and Sonia Kordiak, the Vice Convenor of the EIS Education Committee, is on their Advisory Council – just one of the ways in which teachers are represented.

I wonder what they think of the criticisms.

Has Richard Leonard spoken to Grahame Smith?

https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/79159.2325.html

15 thoughts on “Exams ‘fiasco’ latest: Prof will fixit!”

  1. Some of the new grades will be deserved, but we now have overall results which keep Ross Greer happy, which by definition can’t be a good thing. And don’t get me started on McThingymebob!

    I’m glad John Swinney ignored Prof Paterson’s advice on only using teacher grades based on Prelim results, which would have produced a much poorer outcome.

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  2. From the ‘regrading’ the pass rates are expected to increase so we can eagerly await he next headlines on the subject claiming the revised assessments were too lenient. No matter what the Scot Gov do they are going to get screwed by the Media.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t see what all the fuss is about.
    Nobody sat an exam but they have to get a result based on predictions.

    Rather difficult
    Impossible to be exact the way an exam can

    An appeal system exists that’s good

    Can’t give everyone better marks than they would have got in an exam or better marks than their past performance suggests was possible

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  4. I think the decision to accept teachers’ estimates is going to be disastrous for all the reasons you give above. Some pupils will progress to new school courses for which they are unprepared, having missed the last 2 1/2 months of their previous course. How are teachers to make up for the time lost? It’s fine if you work in a subject area that is project-based. But if you work, for example, in Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Music, Drama or languages where progression really matters and learning is cumulative, how do you make up for the lost time? What can colleges and universities do faced with an array of new recruits and no way of knowing what they  know? The failure of politicians and the media to understand how exam moderation works is also disastrous. I worked for years in quality improvement in a local authority. I was also part of a group of experienced educators who put groups of educational professionals in touch with people doing the same or similar jobs all over the world. That included HMIe and people who worked in exam boards. Scottish personnel more than held their own against professionals from Canada, the USA, NZ. Australia, Singapore and many nations of the EU. The present distrust of the Scottish exam system is based on pure ignorance of how the exam board works – and how assessment works. If Scotland has got its moderation wrong, so has everyone else. 

    The backbone of the SQA is TEACHERS. Not headteachers and certainly not managers of any kind. Teachers not only teach the courses in schools and colleges. They cross-check each other’s work and assure the quality and reliability of the results. We take away the credibility of the exam board at our peril.

    Jean NIsbet

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very interesting Jean. Perhaps, if you are willing, you could expand on this – I’m sure the Prof would be keen to get your input.

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      1. I bet 2 things:

        Firstly, this reply will vanish into the ether. I have a serious problem with WordPress posts.

        And secondly, there are many people out there with better and more up to date knowledge of the exam system than I have and I may not be able to persuade them to contribute.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree Jean. As an ex-teacher (retired for the last ten years) but also a moderator for the twelve years before that (at standard grade, Higher and advanced higher) some of the garbage being churned out by “educationalists”, journalists and politicians shows a lack of knowledge and understanding of how the moderation system works and has worked for years.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I was convinced of the argument that the initial grades were arrived at with the best of intentions, were probably largely “fair” and never likely to be popular with those with an axe to grind.

    Caving in, as Swinney has done here, is wrong though. No mistake was made. No “apology” was needed. They should have stuck to their guns and insisted the opposition explain how a largely average “year” of pupils suddenly became a class of wunderkind if moderation had not been implemented.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Interesting short interview on the 6 o’clock news with a researcher who had researched the correlation between teachers predicted grades for A-Level pupils (in England) and the actual grades the students got when they sat the actual exam. They found that only 20% of the predictions were correct.

    As to how this inflation will affect the pupils when they go to University then the answer is probably not as much as you might expect. Scotland has a four year degree and the first year is very much about bringing all the students up to the same point of knowledge of whatever subject they are sitting. Most Higher exam papers are in sections – say 5 – but you only have to answere 4 questions. This being the case then schools will concentrate on four areas but different schools will select a different combination. There will be some overlap but when a lecturer stands in front of a 1-st year class of undergraduates all will have Higher such and such but they will in fact be a mosaic of knowledge depending on which sections their school opted to teach. But by the ned of the year they will all be at the same point.

    When it comes to the time they have missed then remember that pupils can often study for Higher Biology for example never having studied it since 2nd year. They cram it into one year – and pass it. Therefore if they are prepared to work hard they can make up for that lost time.

    The Unionist parties have now been caught in a trap of their own making. They sided with the pupils and wanted the grades to be based on the teachers’ predictions even allowing for the obvious inflation. That has been done so they can’t complain. Especially since they are incapable of explaining how they would have done it.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think we have a pragmatic decision.

    I thought that the SQA had been pretty rigorous in what they did and gave us a set of results that were in line with previous trends. Since we have an appeals system in Scotland, I had thought that the additional evidence that would have to be provided would have given us a bit more clarity on why so many teachers across all sections of society gave the higher (as distinct from Higher) predictions that they did.

    However, I think that the number of appeals would have been physically difficult to process in the time available. The teachers, as well as restarting schools after the long-term closure and with the virus still present, would have had a significant burden in preparing the appeals within the time scale and the Appeals panels would similarly have too voluminous a task to do within the time available.

    In addition, because most students knew what their predicted grades were, there was a greater degree of disappointment than would have been the case in a ‘normal’ year when the courses would have been completed, all internal assessments and coursework had been completed and marked and the range of moderation stages had been gone through. To have to go through an appeals process would have prolonged this uncertainty, would have been cruel.

    As I said, I think pragmatism has been the deciding factor. It shows compassion to the young people. University and College and apprenticeship recruitment can go ahead. These bodies will have to be pragmatic in the application of their criteria and might have to consider increasing the number of places.

    The Government was courageous in accepting responsibility, although I do not think they needed to take as full responsibility as they did. There are others who need to look at their own actions – and I am applying the principle of charity sincerely – and teachers need to consider why they gave the estimates they did.

    These were unprecedented circumstances and, I hope will not recur. However, the loss of education will impact on the coming session’s cohort of students. But, if we can have a largely uninterrupted session, with exams, internal assessments and coursework completed, full moderation applied, then we ought to have awards which can have greater validity.

    There has to be a proper independent enquiry into this year’s experience and I hope, but forlornly, that the media and opposition parties will face this in a cooperative and constructive way.

    We need to make the current system work better, because we will have it for some more years until any revised system is accepted and introduced. Past experience indicates that such major changes can take up to a decade to make.

    The experience in Scotland will be broadly replicated in the rest of the UK, and a number of other countries.

    As for the young people themselves, I hope they have seen that protest and debate can change minds. Many have been given the benefit of the doubt. They will have a fair idea themselves of what they are really capable, if they are prepared to be honest with themselves. Perhaps the experience will lead to changes in attitudes towards study and, as they move into more challenging phases of education and training, they will put in the kind of efforts that will be of benefit.

    Again, a pragmatic decision which allows us to move on, perhaps a bit bruised and shaken, but, more experienced and wiser.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Well said Alasdair. Your BTL comments on this issue over the past few days have been measured, informed and wise – and very much appreciated!

      I’d pick out a few things you wrote above that I agree with in particular:

      1) “I thought that the SQA had been pretty rigorous in what they did and gave us a set of results that were in line with previous trends. Since we have an appeals system in Scotland …”

      I agree. And the appeals process, now put aside, was a crucial part of the overall assessment and award ‘system’ design. However, the scale, the burden of the appeals process for so many would have put its feasibility in doubt.

      2) “I think pragmatism has been the deciding factor. It shows compassion to the young people.”

      I agree and the latter point is notable an, given there is no perfect outcome, right! However I suspect that we will now see the ‘oppositionalists’ shift their ground to the devaluation/grade inflation charge. When will we have the first young person profiled complaining about their high achievement being devalued?

      3) “The Government was courageous in accepting responsibility, although I do not think they needed to take as full responsibility as they did. There are others who need to look at their own actions – and I am applying the principle of charity sincerely – and teachers need to consider why they gave the estimates they did.”

      On both points I think you are spot on. And if we were to move to a wholly teacher-based assessment system there would still need to be standards, moderation and rigorous checks on teachers’ assessment practices for any new ‘system’ of to have integrity and to be deemed appropriate by a range of legitimate stakeholders across the whole of Scotland and over time.

      4) “There has to be a proper independent enquiry into this year’s experience and I hope, but forlornly, that the media and opposition parties will face this in a cooperative and constructive way.”

      I agree on the importance of independent and rigorous inquiry but I too doubt how the media and opposition politicians will engage. A childish tweet from Ian Murray today, the calls for resignation today in Holyrood, and the hypocrisy of the Douglas Ross statements in his C4 News interview this evening all add to my pessimism.

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