PiXL – Cultural shift needed for assessment without levels

“The system has been so conditioned by levels that there is considerable challenge in moving away from them. We have been concerned by evidence that some schools are trying to recreate levels based on the new national curriculum. Unless this is addressed, we run the risk of failing to put in place the conditions for a higher-attaining, higher-equity system.”

The above statement from the Commission for Assessment Without Levels has possibly underestimated just how rigidly too many head teachers have their mind sets stuck in a time warp somewhere between 2005 and 2010. I recently came across the organisation PiXL, which I understand now embraces over 1500 schools.

No doubt this organisation has done some good in the past, but its approach to assessment without levels totally ignores the advice of the commission. Basically, each subject is encouraged to come up with a long checklist of “can do” statements against which pupil attainment and progress can be measured.

The commission pointed out the problem with this using the following example.

A statement like ‘Can compare two fractions to identify which is larger’ sounds precise, but whether pupils can do this or not depends on which fractions are selected. The Concepts in Secondary Mathematics and Science (CSMS) project investigated the achievement of a nationally representative group of secondary school pupils, and found out that when the fractions concerned were 3/7 and 5/7, around 90% of 14-year-olds answered correctly, but when more typical fractions, such as 3/4 and 4/5 were used, 75% answered correctly. However, where the fractions concerned were 5/7 and 5/9, only around 15% answered correctly.”

Nevertheless PiXL still promotes its cargo cult, tick box approach to assessment and learning. To over 1500 schools. What a pity the commission could not specifically mention PiXL as an example of what we should NOT be doing!

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4 Responses to PiXL – Cultural shift needed for assessment without levels

  1. julietgreen says:

    School leaders are driven by the prospect of accountability. Clarity is not needed within the schools (or not ONLY) but from the external drivers, particularly, of course OFSTED. In twitter discussion currently with @HarfordSean I am unable to get message across that there are problems with just throwing assessment out to schools to do whatever they feel suits them, and then to go in after the invention of assessment systems in all our 25000 schools to say whether or not it’s ok.

    Like

    • fish64 says:

      I used to think it was Ofsted accountability pressures which led to a love of data, but now I am not so sure. I think it is not just the prospect of accountability that drives school leaders. What we have is a number of school leaders whose fascination with data has become such that they don’t care whether it is based on meaningful learning or not. All they care about is the sophistication of their data analysis tools and their ability to play with them to their hearts’ contents. A sort of Stockholm syndrome

      Liked by 1 person

      • julietgreen says:

        Possibly. I know I have been asked to say what the %s are even after I have explained that they are based on a meaningless, completely unreliable metric. Any set of figures would have been accepted as actually showing something. We have colleagues who showed 100% of pupils… When that represented one pupil.

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