Progress 8 and ECDL

The explosion of the ECDL qualification throughout 2016 and 2017 has been well documented before by myself and elsewhere. It is also common knowledge that students were able to gain much higher grades and in a shorter timeframe than other approved qualifications.

“In the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) qualification, which has drawn criticism recently, the difference is staggering. On average, pupils taking the ECDL achieve 52 points – equivalent to a grade A – whereas they average 38 points – below grade C – in their GCSEs.” (Edudatalab, May 2016)

However, this isn’t to say that the qualification itself was a bad thing, indeed for some students it provided important recognition of their competence in Microsoft Office packages that could then be used to progress to another course or help them access employment.

Some schools were evidently using the qualification in this way, whereas others it would have to be questioned whether they were entering the whole cohort in order to mask the progress made in other subjects in the overall Progress 8 (P8) score.

Indeed 2240 schools used the ECDL (or close equivalent) in some form in 2017.

Of these schools, 880 used ECDL for less than 25% of their cohort, whilst 626 entered 75% or more of their students into the qualification. The average ECDL entry percentage of schools that offered ECDL was 45%.

209 schools entered over 95% of their cohort into the qualification.

On average the schools with over 95% of entries achieved a progress 8 score of +0.23

ecdl2017

It’s a fair assumption to say that on average the overall P8 score for these schools was driven disproportionately by the Open Element, which is where the ECDL qualification falls.

However within these 209 schools it is evident that some blanket ECDL use was not complicit in them achieving a strong Progress 8 score: Take this school for example:

ecdl2017A

Here we see that the Open Element is the strongest Element but the overall P8 score would be very strong anyway so entering all the cohort for ECDL has possibly made marginal difference to the P8 score but it would have remained in a very strong position anyway.

In contrast, the school shown by the data below has achieved a positive P8 score, solely because of it’s outcomes in the Open Element of Progress 8:

ecdl2017b

Clearly, without the Open Element (of which ECDL makes up a maximum of a third) this school would have achieved a much lower overall progress 8 outcome. Now of course it is not for me to say that this wasn’t the right course of action for this school in order to deliver the best set of qualifications for it’s students. I am simply pointing out how the P8 score is a balance between several subjects and it is up to others to decide whether that balance represents a good level of education, or not.

For those interested, the top school here is judged Outstanding at the time of writing and the second school; Good.

I should, as ever, place a reminder that progress 8 is a zero-sum measure, which means gains in one area, must be offset elsewhere, that is the nature of the beast.

Ofsted of course remain clear that no single measure can ever be used to form a judgement of a school, which is entirely sensible, and they seem keen to get to the bottom of curriculum mix and qualifications offered in schools and to what purpose they are occurring.

 

 

 

1, Data Source: https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk
 
 2, Throughout this piece I referent to ECDL, the data actually refers to to ECDL or equivalent qualifications and by equivalent I mean qualifications with the discount code CN1 that are VRQ2s and carry a D*, D, M, P grade structure.

 

 

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Who’s gaming who?

Sometimes I do wonder whether schools are gaming the performance measures or whether the performance measures are gaming the schools.

There’s already a raft of nuances in the performance table measures that marginally move the data one way or the other.

Firstly, the KS2 fine-level cap at 5.8 means that students who have a higher starting point than that are effectively lumped in with everyone else at 5.8. The reason for this is that the use of the level 6 KS2 tests varies between schools, but it has the side effect of giving the students with the highest prior attainment a slightly less challenging attainment 8 estimate.

Secondly, the attainment 8 figures this year are going to be hugely affected by the meddling with points scores for legacy GCSE qualifications. In short, a school with students who all attained A grades last year and this year, would receive the same attainment 8 score in both years. However a school with C grade students this year and last year would receive a much lower attainment 8 score. Although actual achievements are the same. What is the likelihood that these statistics will be put forward for the Grammar school argument?

Finally,  I’ve read this week that in order to solve the problem of one outlier being able to effect the progress 8 score of a school, that a cap could be introduced of -2.5 or +2.5 for each pupil. This would reduce the impact of outliers on the school score.

However such an arbitrary cap would penalise schools with intakes of lower prior attainment and conversely favour those with higher prior attainment.

cap.PNG

So as can be seen, introducing an across the board cap on those students achieving nothing, benefits schools with higher prior attainers, in that it reduces this impact on those schools to a greater degree.

Furthermore, what sort of message does a cap send out?, basically that for a level 5.0, the first 33 attainment points they achieve count for very little. This means schools could be encouraged to not persevere with the student projected to achieve 10 A8 points because unless they get to 33 points it makes no difference to the school. Whereas in the uncapped system, improving that students grades does carry an incentive.

Other solutions could be…

…to report on a typical P8 score for schools, which perhaps looks at the middle 90% of P8 scores, although again that could carry perverse incentives.

… to introduce a cap that slides with starting points, so that the cap for a lower prior attainer could be -1.0, whereas a higher attainer might be -3.0. This would work on some sort of statistical link between A8 estimate and where the cap sits.

…to leave it alone.

Whatever the powers that be decide, I hope they consider the unintended consequences of their well-meaning actions.

 

 

 

 

Parlez-vous Progress

Alongside the DfE school performance tables which were published last week, comes a statistical first release that covers a wealth of interesting national, regional and local data.

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/revised-gcse-and-equivalent-results-in-england-2015-to-2016

The tables contained within in this link tell us a lot of useful information, but in the hubbub that focuses on school achievements at this time, sometimes interesting messages can be missed.

One that fascinates me, and has for a long time is the strong performance of schools in London compared to their counterparts across the country. This is not a new phenomenon and has been reported on several times in recent years, in pieces such as this, this  and this.

However of course, this year, we have a new progress measure on the block (progress 8) and it is interesting to see how London fares here compared to other areas.

In order to streamline this analysis, I have categorised the DfE regions like so:

lnr

In brief, London hugely outperforms these areas on the Progress 8 (P8) measure. London achieves a P8 score of +0.16, whilst the North lags way behind with a score of -0.11. The rest of the country scores -0.03.

chart1

Progress 8 can be broken down into “elements” that contribute to the overall score, the area where London performs strongests is in the Ebacc element, the Ebacc element contains academic subjects in the curriculum areas of science, humanities, languages and computer science.

chart2

So this really appears to be a London / North divide. So again we should dig a bit deeper… as I mention above, the Ebacc element comprises of sciences, humanities and languages.

When we investigate these three components, it is languages that comes out with the greatest disparity:

chart3

London massively outperforms the other areas in terms of progress made in languages, and in fact when we break this down to school level, we can see that 75% of schools in London make positive value added in languages, compared to just 45% in other areas.

This was the end of my original blog, however I was inundated with people hypothesising that these patterns shown above were due to students entering GCSEs in their home languages. With London having a more diverse population, this had greatest impact on Language value added scores in London.

It is a sensible hypothesis, but not all that easy to investigate with the data we are given.

However what we can say with certainty is that across the country students with lower prior attainment at Key Stage 2 (KS2) achieve higher grades on average than students in other Ebacc areas:

langva

As we can see, students with the lowest prior attainment at KS2 attained much higher on average in languages than students with similar levels of prior attainment in science or humanities. (English and maths also a lot lower on average). Of course it is worth noting that the KS2 fine levels in 2016 are derived from an average of English and maths and therefore take no account for ability in languages, or science or humanities for that matter.

It is a fact that in 2016, students with lower levels of prior attainment as measured by KS2 outcomes in English and maths achieved, on average, much higher grades in languages than in other subjects. 

OK, so these students, achieving great things in languages… it might be fair to ask, whether the languages they are achieving good grades in are ones that the schools have painstakingly taught them, or whether they are taking examinations in languages that they already speak at home or in the community.

There’s no way to tell from the national data that is publicly available. However what we can tell is the proportion of students that are EAL (have English as an Additional Language) in a school. Then we can look at the value-added scores for those schools in languages:

lang-va

So as might be expected, progress in languages is much greater in schools where greater proportions of students potentially speak multiple languages.

How does this translate to our regions?

prop

London has proportionally more schools than the rest of England that have 50% or greater of their students with EAL.

Is there regional variation in school outcomes between schools with large proportions of EAL?

varegion

Some variation exists between the North and London.

In summary, schools with greater proportions of students with EAL make more progress in languages. These schools are concentrated in London. Therefore Language Value Added scores are higher in London than in other regions. Languages form an important component in both Progress 8 and the Ebacc measure. Therefore this should be taken into account when considering the relative performance of schools in Languages, and possibly depending on which subject mix has been taught in schools, in general.

Interactive RAISE – 5 reports

Hello,

A brief blog to give my thoughts on 5 RAISE online interactive reports that are worth looking at straight away. I’m not saying the other reports aren’t worth it.. .but I think these are to good to look at first as a starting point.

How do  I get to them?

Log on to RAISEOnline: https://www.raiseonline.org/

Click on Reports, then Key Stage 4.

I’ve highlighted the reports below:

raise

OK… some important things to note, as highlighted by the stars

KS4.P8 – when you open this report you might think, umm that’s nice, but when you go to Options – Progress Related it takes the report to another level. A much more relevant and useful level… do it.

raise1

KS4.Thresh – the eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed I’ve only highlighted 4 reports above… but I said 5 reports. Well I think it is useful to cut the KS4.Thresh report both ways. As standard the report opens and it is comparing you to the specified national comparator. This is fine… and correct… I’m seeing a lot of comments saying this report is incorrect.

Actually, it’s not correct, you need to read the column titled ‘Natioanl comparator type’ and then understand that the national data shown relates to that group. This is as identified in the statement of intent that it is better to compare school figures to the national figure for the comparator group, as this avoids the issue of gaps appearing to narrow or widen based on school overall performance.

Does that make sense? Anyway, if you wish to see it the other way, i.e. comparing like with like, again choose Options – Same. This is useful, but not how schools should be judging themselves on narrowing the gap. Use the specified report for that.

Finally the two subject level reports I’ve highlighted above are useful, as they are.

Progress Reyt*

*Reyt is a Yorkshire persons way of saying “right” or “really” sometimes they might say “reet” or in some areas they say “rare”. Anyway I’m using “reyt” as it rhymes with “eight”, I barely feel the play on words is worthy of the explanation but… I aim for clarity.

So what I am trying to say is Progress Right, or Getting Progress Eight Right.

On 26th September this year schools got their first glimpse of their provisional progress 8 score for the results of the 2016 cohort. There was considerable consternation in some schools due to the figure being considerably lower than what they had calculated in their MIS or analysis system from results day. This was entirely to be expected, as I’ve said before, have a handle on your P8 scores using previous years estimates, but don’t publish them, and certainly don’t shout them from the rooftops.

So most schools saw their provisional progress 8 score ‘drop’ by between 0.1 and 0.2 depending on the proportion of students with lower levels of prior attainment in the cohort due to the increase in entries to Ebacc subjects (see edudatalab post here).

So although the overall headline figure was ‘wrong’ as would have been calculated in year, and on results day, lots of your thinking if you were using progress 8 would have been right.

For example, the table below shows how GCSE subjects in my school fared before and after switching the estimates from the best national attainment 8 estimate of 2014 and 2015 to the 2016 estimates.

I just need to stress, that we don’t rank subjects in this way, I am just using it as a device to show that irrespective of the which P8 estimates we use the subjects are in a similar order. Therefore… in year when we are working with these estimates and scores we are supporting and asking relevant questions of relevant areas at internal assessment points.

sbjs

N.B. P1 just means progress 1, which is what we call progress in a single subject.

Equally, when we talk about individual students and look to support or challenge individuals, review options and such like, you can see from the chart below that again, irrespective of which set of estimates we were using or should have been using that we would have had a good idea of which students were making least and most progress.

linesrank

Again we do not rank students like this. It is for illustrative purposes.

Students of course fit into groups, so again if we were looking at groups, or gaps we can be fairly confident we are looking at the right sort of things.

In conclusion, I believe that using progress 8 methodology on your current cohorts is OK, certainly better than using a methodology based around thresholds or in my opinion than doing nothing at all.

So after all, it’s not about getting the Progress 8 headline, the flashing and dancing school score right, it’s about using the methodology in the right way, thinking about what it does tell you in the right way, and supporting your students and teachers in whatever way you feel is the right way.

Reyt?

 

 

Performance Dark Arts

I have been meaning to write this blog for a while but I keep putting it off because the subject matter is a little bit sensitive, probing into the dark areas of data mismanagement for perceived performance gains.

So let’s highlight some of the ways that schools are playing the system, how these games can be spotted and how we can gain greater insight into what is happening. Let’s start with everyone’s favourite qualification right now, the European Computer Driving License:

ECDL:

The ECDL has been around a fairly long time, certainly I can remember having the opportunity to do some similar exams whilst I was working for a local authority way back in 2003. However what is happening now is that it is being seen as an easy qualification for schools to gain a huge boost to their progress 8 score in the Open element. The ECDL story is what triggered me to write this piece today when I saw the 346% increase in the numbers of ECDL qualifications achieved over the past year.

ee

Source

So, 117,200 certificates in the past year, that almost puts it on a par with French or GCSE PE for the number of entries. The rise of ECDL has been well documented elsewhere, most notably when the PiXL club touted it as an easy success route at one of their national conferences.

Much else has been written about the rise of ECDL, most notably from Schools Week, here and again here. Also weighing in heavily on the debate are Edudatalab who make it clear in this piece that student’s achieve dis-proportionally higher grades in the ECDL than they do in other qualifications…

“In the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) qualification, which has drawn criticism recently, the difference is staggering. On average, pupils taking the ECDL achieve 52 points – equivalent to a grade A – whereas they average 38 points – below grade C – in their GCSEs.” (Edudatalab, May 2016)

So not only can higher grades be achieved, but schools can put student’s through the qualification in a much shorter amount of time, 3 or 4 days of intensive teaching and testing can achieve results for students way in excess of what they can achieve in a two year course in a GCSE subject. In my experience, an employer might value an A grade in mathematics, higher than a Distinction in ECDL, but the performance tables awards them equal points. And this is the crux really, the fault does not lie in the existence of the ECDL qualification but instead lies at the feet of whoever decided that the course was the equivalent of top grades in mainstream GCSEs. However it is not mathematics that is suffering in the progress 8 world, all students have to take mathematics. The ‘loser’ qualifications come in the form of GCSEs that also are available for the open bucket, they cannot compete with the power of ECDL. The dilemmas schools face are thus: Spend two years completing an approved GCSE in a non-Ebacc subject or spend 3 days blitzing ECDL and achieving higher tariff results to boot.

Of course, this hoo-hah has not gone unnoticed, if the DfE and Ofqual seem oblivious to this phenomenon then at least Ofsted appear to be on the ball. In their Summer Update to Inspectors, they make reference on pages 4 and 5 to Examination Entry and Curriculum where they state:

identify any subjects with a substantially higher percentage of entry than the national figure, taking into account any specialism of the school, and the total of all qualifications in a subject area, such as information and communication technology (ICT), or in related areas, such as ICT and computer science

Without mentioning any particular qualification, this could well be alluding to ECDL entries.

Schools need to tread carefully in this area and think carefully about future entry patterns, I’m up for rewarding schools efforts, but not at the expense of others (remember Progress 8 is a zero-sum game, so improvements – however they are made – in one school then affect the rest of the school population.) If ECDL really is the answer, every student might as well do it and then we can be judged on the remaining Progress 7.

The ECDL effect can be seen via performance figures where schools have great Open element scores but lower impact on the scores in English, maths, and Ebacc elements.

So three ways the ECDL issue can be resolved:

  • Reduce points, and then schools that still feel it is genuinely beneficial to their students can still offer it.
  • Tighter Ofsted scrutiny over entry patterns (this might already be happening)
  • Publish Progress 8 without ECDL, or simply the best 7 subjects – Progress 7, this would highlight any schools that are relying on one qualification to boost scores.

OK next up on my list…

MFL qualifications for native speakers:

This is not going to be a popular stance (with some) but some schools simply put their students in for GCSE qualifications in their home language.

How can this be spotted?

When we look at school results and see things like; 5 A grades in Polish, 8 A* grades in Urdu, 3 top grades in Mandarin.

OK fine, these results like ECDL are falsely inflating a slot in progress 8, this is not as widespread but possibly even less worthy, simply because the school has not taught these children anything, whereas there is an element of teaching in ECDL. A GCSE in their own language is probably not that useful to them.

The counter argument to this is that these children often have lower ability in English and therefore this is simply a counterbalance to that, but it isn’t really close to being the same thing. Lower prior attainment in English will be reflected in KS2 starting points.

If Ofsted were looking, they could say, OK – 3 A grades in Polish, great well done, you must have some great teaching in that area, can I observe part of a lesson please? Where would they go? These things are superfluous to the school system.

See also: Graded Music Qualifications, taken privately outside of school – claimed by the school – the same thing really.

Finally for today, because I have a bunch more:

The Missing Masses:

When Edudatalab, published the excellent Floors, Tables and Coasters in 2015, I expected a much bigger uproar nationally about this graph:

missing

This clearly shows an exodus of pupils in Autumn and Spring Term of Y11 and what happens on the third Thursday in January? The school census, where pupils on roll at that point count in school performance figures whether they like it or not. This isn’t just an odd phenomena this is deliberate massaging of the figures to remove ‘troublesome’ or dare I suggest ‘underperforming’ students before they are cemented into the school performance figures.

This is a major concern to me in education, how can these students simply be allowed to be AWOL, do we not as a nation have a duty of responsibility to educate this students to the best of our ability to the end of compulsory education.

However deeper than this even is the MAT effect. Students switching schools within MATs to simply go onto a roll in January (briefly perhaps) so that they do not adversely affect the results of a school that is in danger of inspection in the next cycle. They might never set foot in the school. I’ve mentioned this before here, it’s impossible to prove from here.

However, surely nationally, the NPD can be interrogated to show numbers on roll at individual schools in Y10 January and then the following year Y11 January and this can be used as a basis for further investigations.

I don’t like this one at all, infact I like it least of the three mentioned today. The darkest of the dark arts, a large secondary MAT with an outstanding special school included… have a think where those students are ‘going’ for a few days in January.

Combined Science Grades in Progress 8

GCSE Combined Science qualifications are reported on a seventeen point scale from 1-1 to 9-9, where 9-9 is the highest grade. Results not attaining the minimum standard for the award will be reported as U (unclassified). So from 2018, students will be achieving grades like:

6-6

6-5

5-5

5-4

Etc.

For progress 8 purposes and the Ebacc bucket, either both grades can count or one grade can count or neither grades can count:

So Student A:

Double Science: 6-6

Geography: 6

History: 5

French: 4

Both Science Grades and Geography count and Ebacc bucket scores 18 points.

 

Student B:

Double Science: 6-5

Geography: 6

History: 6

French: 4

This is the strange one, Geography and History count, One of the science grades count but because the unused science grade is a 5, the 6 is worth 5.5. i.e. the science grades are totalled and divided by 2: In this scenario the Ebacc bucket contains 17.5 points.

 

Student C:

Double Science: 6-5

Geography: 6

History: 6

French: 6

Double Science does not count, Ebacc bucket consists of Geog, History and French – 18 points.

 

Student D:

Double Science: 5-5

Geography: 6

History: 6

French: 6

Double Science does not count, 18 points.

 

No official source yet, as per usual it is a based on a query somebody raised via e-mail with the DfE helpdesk.

No idea at the time of writing as to what happens to the “unused” science grades and what points they score in the Open bucket.