From 2015 the standard measure for schools is set no longer to be based on 5 GCSEs, including English and Maths (5ACEM). Instead some form of Best8 value added will be used, assessing each student against their top 8 GCSE results, compared to what could be expected based on their KS2 results at age 11.
At the moment, although 5ACEM is the key league table measure, and the measure that schools are publicly judged on, it is not the most important one for Ofsted's inspections. As all those involved in schools know, the Best8 measure already exists, is published annually in Ofsted's RaiseOnline report on each school and is normally the first figure used by Ofsted inspectors. (And, as is expected for the new benchmark, it actually includes 10 scores - counting English and Maths twice.)The expected GCSEs for each Key Stage 2 level
Best8 is based on comparing the GCSE results for every Year 11 student in a school with what is expected for that student, as a result of their Key Stage 2 scores at age 11. A school does well in this measure if all students make good progress, as opposed to the importance of borderline students in 5ACEM. The actual calculation is extremely complicated but gives these expected results, for these KS2 sub-levels:
|KS2 Av Grade||GCSEs for VA=1000||Progress for VA = 1000|
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(B+ means mainly Bs, with some A grades. C- means mainly C grades with some Ds.)
Best8 or Expected Progress?
However, while Best8 is available, there is some confusion about which is the best measure of progress. The DfE produces figures for the % of students making "expected progress", which is based on a flat 3 levels of progress for each pupil, a measure also used in the Ofsted school dashboard.
When Ofsted came to inspect the school that I chair this term, they made clear they were most interested in progress made by students, and by their value added. However as well as using the Best8 measure, they focused on the % of students making 3 levels or 4 levels of progress - the 3 levels representing the DfE definition of "expected progress" for each student.
These are different measures. If every pupil in a school were to achieve exactly 3 levels of progress, then the school would show 100% of students achieving the DfE's expected progress target, and the Ofsted dashboard would look very impressive - but it would result in a score well below 1000 for Best8 value added. (Indeed I estimate a Best8 result of 974, which would be likely to lead to a verdict of "Requires Improvement".) As can be seen from the table above most students in the RaiseOnline measure (based on actual student progress across the country) are expected to get more than 3 levels of progress.
The DfE & Ofsted measure suggests B grades are fine for the most able
This is most clear for students at 5b and 5a at Key Stage 2. Michael Wilshaw was right, in my view, to call for schools to expect these students to get A & A* grades at GCSE. However both the DfE and Ofsted have played their part in causing this problem, as the use of "expected progress" of 3 levels sets an expectation that students who achieve level 5 at age 11 are doing fine if they get B grades (3 levels of progress) at GCSE. In the Ofsted school dashboard it makes a crucial difference whether students achieve a C or a D - but it makes absolutely no difference in any of the measures whether students get B, A or A* grades - the dashboard measures all of these as effectively the same.
Some local authorities have responded by calling on schools to set a flat 4 levels of progress as the target. As the table above shows, this is a big stretch for a 3c pupil, and one which I believe no school in the country achieves for the majority of those students, but it is still too low a target for 5a students - who should be expected to get A* grades (5 levels of progress).
Moving beyond a measure that is simple but misleading?
People like the concept of a flat 3 levels or 4 levels because it is simple and easy to understand. Best8 is far more complicated to calculate. However is it better to have a target that is simple but misleading or one that is complex but accurate in assessing equally the progress of all students?
As I have made clear before, I personally welcome a move to a Best8-style measure, as it values the progress of every student. However Ofsted and the DfE should make clear whether they wish schools to focus on Best8 or on the much less useful measure of 3 (or 4) levels of progress. Both measure student progress but in very different ways, and would result in different behaviour from schools seeking to maximise their results. With the introduction of the new Best8 perhaps it is time to ditch the idea of a flat 3 or 4 levels of progress, and so avoid schools having different - and contradictory - targets.
This is the latest in a series of posts on how school data is used. Previous ones (the first 3 of which are all in the top 12 most-visited pages on the LSN site) include:Making expected progress is a deeply flawed measureOfsted dashboard uses the wrong dataThe data on level 5 conversion to GCSE gradesWhy 3 Levels of Progress is a Very Silly Measure
3 levels of progress is from level 3 at KS2 to a grade D at GCSE, level 4 to a C and level 5 to a B.
The table above results from calculations based on the mid-point for each sub-level. So, while a student on 5c could have a point score anywhere between 30 and 32, the grade predictions above are based on the mid-point of 31 pts. A full explanation of the RaiseOnline calculation is given in KS2-4 Best 8 VA RaiseOnline