Is there a social agenda that pushes the use of data in schools to a more summative view?

Over recent weeks I have pondering concerns raised by teachers and a few parents on the use of data to report to parents (summative assessment).

Last week three of my staff attended a briefing on the new National Curriculum due to be implemented in 2013. Most of the questions raised at the briefing were about reporting to parents (summative assessments).

Preceding that briefing I had conducted a staff workshop on Data Wise which looked at shifting some school structures to compliment a more formative view of assessment and was struck by the same emphasis, even concern expressed by some teachers on the need to verify summative teacher judgements with some standardised data. Why – reporting to parents.

This pondering led me to some personal reflections on when reporting to me, as a parent, changed to reporting to the learner, in this case my children. I recall somewhere around year 8 when my then teenagers accompanied me to parent teacher interviews. High schools typically have a hall or school library filled with teachers sitting at tables with a mark book and reporting to some 100 or more parents at 5 minute intervals. I was running late for the first interview and the conversation had started and I sat back and listened to both the teacher and the student having a talk about progress and future goals. It struck me then that my role had shifted to that of a supporter and only once in the ensuing years did I intervene when some battle axe, I thought, was less than productive as she chomped through my son after he paid her a compliment.

I reflected on Patrick Griffin, from Melbourne University, quote – “assessment is for teaching” and these concerns. I have some wonderings:
– when do we engage the actual learner in the summative conversation or is it secret adults business?
– are we so very concerned about the accuracy of judgement (A,B,C,D) which of itself is of little value in terms of feedback that makes a difference to learning (self esteem aside) that we place the the formative stuff to one side?
– or are there lots of other agendas that we cannot face or mention here?

My own thoughts are that we must commit to the value of using data formatively to make a difference with the learner to their outcomes. All the rest is second hand.

This entry was posted in Assessment, school, Teaching, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Is there a social agenda that pushes the use of data in schools to a more summative view?

  1. mwalker says:

    I wonder Penny if the misconception is really the result of societal pressure for teachers to be accountable in a simplified way (e.g. a grade A,B,C,D).

    I have no problem being accountable BUT I feel the first person that is to is the learner. To take assessment out of silent teacher business to “us” business where assessment feedback is shared, learner sets improvement goals and we collect data on the progressive attempts to reach that target.

  2. Penny says:

    Thanks for raising this issue Mark. As one of the three staff who attended the briefing, my concern centred around the seemingly interchangeable use of the terms ‘assessment’ and ‘reporting’ by many present, as though they were one and the same. I wonder whether others reading this have encountered a similar sentiment…? Is this a common misconception?

Interested in your thoughts