Sunday, 16 June 2013

Levels, changes and automobiles

I would just like to stand up and say "YESSSYYYYY!" to the proposed changes to GCSE MFL. I am delighted that, finally, we are to be rid of the time-wasting, memory-testing, soul-destroying Controlled Assessments. Although I would opt out of them right now if I could.

@spsmith45 writes a fine summary of the situation.

I don't think that the proposals (right at the end of the article - where else?) have been met with much more than relief and smiles from the majority of MFL teachers. Equal weighting for the 4 skills? Brilliant. What it means is that we can start training the current Year 7s already on the skills they need to pass GCSE Languages. It also means a change in focus and skills in the new SoWs, to ensure we are developing the students to be the best they can be. So there are quite a few challenges for us to juggle between now and the end of term. A slow end to the school year, you say? Think again, my friend.

We have exam week at school starting tomorrow for all year groups. In preparation for those opting for GCSE in the next two years, all students have been given preparation time before the writing and speaking exams, so they can practise their paragraphs and aim for the best level possible. (Levels. More of which in a bit.).Students have also been set revision as homework, armed with vocab sheets that summarise all units. Yet I am still not overly convinced that our students really know how to revise or learn. This is a skill that needs addressing right across the school (or nation, if enough of you agree), a notion that used to be taught in Year 7 at Costello under the umbrella of Active Learning. Every student knew by October what sort of learner they were, what tasks helped them learn the most effectively, which helped when it came to exams and tests. 

So I am a little nervous about the end of year exams.

So onto levels. The #MFLTwitterati had a good discussion earlier on this week about levels, and how the progression in levels matches to the expected progression across the board, based on end of KS2 data. This is what each child should be achieving:

(I will just interject now by saying I do not whole-heartedly agree that the KS2 results are necessarily reflective of a child's ability in every subject. Nor do I agree that levels in the core subjects at KS2 correlate to the levels at KS3. I certainly do not believe that students' progress and projection of results should be based purely on how well they mastered exams when they were 11. For a number of reasons, which I will not go into today!)

What makes it very frustrating is, in meetings, having to explain (again and again) why MFL looks so poor, from a performance point of view, on the charts, graphs and tables that we are presented with each meeting, when the measuring stick is how many sub-levels are they above their KS2 levels. 

I am thinking of buying a t-shirt that reads "They start on nothing with us!" and just wearing that every meeting! It may stop me nearly weeping each time! 

So I have started to collate data to see if I can work out a pattern, a rule, an anything that will help me and others understand the rate of progress. Do students ever actually reach their target level, based on 6 sub-levels of progress from their KS2 average score by the end of year 9?

The data I have is difficult to conclude from. Year 7s are all careering towards and beyond their 'end of KS2' average already, and many of them have made excellent progress. (Which means that they will still come up as negative progress on the magic spread sheets and graphs). Years 8 and 9 are tricky to conclude from, as some of the teaching they have had previously meant that they were underperforming big-time before this academic year. 

It will be easier to track the current year 7 as they go through KS3, to spot for patterns. 

And then comes the whole ditching of levels. Let us be free to teach the students all the skills they need. If you look at the document attached to the TES MFL forum, and read paragraph 1.12 on page 5, you will find

Proficiency in languages is vital to the future economic well-being of this country.

So.... this is a lot to think about. I do know that I will keep seeking advice, support and solace from the #MFLTwitterati.

What choon to include for today? Well, I am on alphabetical listening again, and I am on choons starting with D. So, an entirely unrelated choonage, but a fine 'un. (Although it does contain the lyrics "I don't know where we are going")...




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