School exam data used to spot ‘unexpected’ grades

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A report examining how national qualifications are to be awarded in Scotland this year says that “most” councils will analyze the marks given by teachers against historical data on their school’s results, in order “to identify and deal with any unexpected provisional grades”.

Last year there was an outcry when Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) results were released because top-performing pupils in relatively low-achieving schools – often serving deprived areas – saw their estimates unfairly downgraded teachers.

A week after the results were published – and following student protests that they should be judged on their performance and not their postcode – the Scottish Government reverted to teachers’ estimates, except where a candidate’s result had been improved through the quality assurance process.


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However – as the government promised when canceling this year’s exams in December that ‘no algorithms will be used in this exercise’ – a new report published today by Education Scotland on how local authorities guarantee the quality of grades this year shows that “most” boards are developing “tailor-made data analysis tools” for schools so that interim results can be analyzed “against three- or five-year trends from historical data”.

SQA 2021 assessment: historical school exam data used for ‘quality assurance’

The report said: “Local authority officials plan to conduct trend analysis to discuss this year’s interim results with headteachers, with particular emphasis on data verification and identification and remediation. issue of results or patterns of achievement that appear abnormal This includes consideration of historical patterns and trends in relation to the provisional results of this academic session, at the individual, departmental and school level.

But Jim Thewliss, general secretary of secondary school leaders’ organization School Leaders Scotland (SLS), said it was ‘completely legitimate’ to use a school’s prior learning in relation to the process. quality assurance.

He said that if a department’s three-year trend showed the majority of results were traditionally B and C grades, but this year “a large number” of students got A grades, then a conversation with the head department was needed.

Mr Thewliss said: “The head teacher might be new to the job, he might be able to say he’s revitalized the department and have the evidence to say he’s stirred it all up. It’s a conversation quite legitimate to have in relation to the quality assurance process – verifying that the achievement is based on solid evidence.”

The Education Scotland report – which is several weeks late and was originally due to be published in mid-May – also says that “a few” councils need to “provide clearer guidance and expectations for all staff so that they do not not replicate an examination-type assessment regime”.

The SQA has insisted there is no requirement to replicate the full formal exams this year, but it has prompted an angry reaction from teachers, who say the body will only accept evidence collected under the conditions of the examination.

A teacher writes for Your Scotland said: “As every teacher – and, let’s face it, every student – knows, exams by any other name are still exams: when it’s all about your performance on the day, whatever your experience of the past year is a review.”

The report states: “While individual schools value autonomy in defining their own assessment approaches, it is important that local authorities keep school-level assessment approaches under review and take prompt action when the practice of assessment does not conform to the expectations set out by the [National Qualifications] Group 2021.”

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