So far in this series I’ve explored whether the English Language GCSE provides an adequate curriculum and assessment model. In this post, we’ll explore how well it gauges the “progress” which individuals or cohorts of students have made between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4.
There are some studies – this one from the EEF probably being the most notable – which have explored whether KS2 data can act as a useful predictor of KS4 performance. Apparently, it was at the time the data in the report was produced if fine scores rather than levels were used. I’ve yet to come across a report which does the opposite – namely establishing whether the GCSE actually provides us with useful information on students’ progress since they took their KS2 assessments. If you know of one, please send it my way.
Despite this, there are three key areas I’d like to explore here that call into question whether GCSE results do provide us with a useful gauge of progress:
- How far are the assessment frameworks similar?
- How far are the question types similar, taking into consideration the need for heightened expectations for Key Stage 4?
- How far are the conditions in which the assessments take place similar?
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about the KS2 English tests from a secondary English teacher’s perspective.
I shared this table which is an attempt to consider how each aspect of the KS2 content domain ties in with the Assessment Objectives for GCSE English.
Producing this grid makes it clear that, although there are undoubtedly clear connections between the skills required at Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4, there is now more clearly (and rightly so I think) a wider gap between the two levels than there was when we were all using the same Assessment Focuses during the APP days of yore.
What’s more interesting, as it has greater implications in terms of the gauging of progress is that writing is not included in this measure. At KS4, writing constitutes 50% of a student’s overall marks and therefore their grade. Writing is assessed at KS2, but this is carried out through teacher assessment. Michael Tidd (@michaelt1979) has written interestingly on this – in particular, the issues around moderation and defining levels of independence.
In addition, when you look at the reading questions at KS2, they are almost rigidly fixed to a specific area of the content domain. This is not as clearly the case with the English language GCSE (certainly that of AQA). An example of this is the evaluation question, which I’ve explored in the past here. This sometimes loose connection makes it difficult to make comparisons.
This is Hardcore
There’s little doubt that the current Key Stage 2 Assessment framework is challenging for children in Year 6. The difference though between the manner and modes of assessment at Key Stages 2 and 4 with students having to complete far longer responses to texts and two solo pieces of writing with no redrafting, make the measurement of progress between the two key stages somewhat ridiculous.