Brave new world

It’s a brave new world of marking in our school. It’s not that I’m spending any more or less time marking really. It’s just that where I used to mark lots of end of unit tests and homework (which I found useful) I am now required to either mark or get the pupils to mark EVERY question they answer in their books (which I do not). I then have the joy of writing the level or grade of the work completed along with a comment telling pupils how they can go up a level/grade.

Thus far I have found this time consuming, tedious and rather pointless.

I would estimate I spend 5-10 minutes of each 50 minute lesson (depending on behaviour) going through answers. My most frequent comment when going through books has been to tell pupils they will be kept behind if they do not self-assess properly next time. I am not finding that pupils care deeply about the level or grade of the work. For the most part writing about what they need to do for the next level/grade goes over their heads because it is something they have not been taught yet. I can’t see pupils thinking “I can do equations with unknowns on each side. If I want to go up a level I’d better teach myself simultaneous equations.” Of course this only applies if there is something that relates that is the level/grade above. Often there isn’t. It seems to me that like so many initiatives and ideas that we get lumbered with it suits subjects like Humanities and English but doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in Maths

Is there any research that suggests marking EVERY question is in some way beneficial? I can’t find it. I used to mark 2-3 key questions. That worked fine for me. What frustrates me is that it seems to be assumed that I’m going to do all of this extra work on top of what I was doing already. I won’t. I have stopped doing several things that worked for my pupils and me in order to do this. Sadly if the drop in results I am expecting materialises as a result of this sillyness it won’t be the fault of the person who landed it on us. It will be our fault.

What I’m also not sure about which is yet to be adequately explained is what makes anyone think the pupils will give a damn about what they need to do to reach level 6. A significant minority of my pupils think I should be grateful if they write the date or copy the board. I have to make them read the comments and respond.

There is also a brave new world of target setting. We are now setting pupils “ambitious” (ludicrously unrealistic) targets. Teachers are to be interrogated should those targets not be met. Apparently “the target was ambitious” is not going to be acceptable as an explanation for why pupils have not met the “ambitious” target. The lowest target I can find, regardless of pupils ability or special needs, is an E.

I am of the view that the whole notion of a pupil being level 5 is highly suspect and of dubious worth in terms of telling you anything meaningful about the pupils ability or subject knowledge. Sub-levels are entirely made up. I told my line manager that as Year 9 levels are entirely teacher assessed if you tell people they will be judged on those levels you will be amazed how many pupils hit their targets. you’ll also be amazed by the precipitous drop in performance in those same pupils in KS4.

The two things put together have led to pupils books being covered in comments that essentially are telling them they are miles away from their targets for the most part. At the other extreme I have some pupils that have taken their GCSE early, got an A* and yet their target remains a B.

All the pupils targets are more “ambitious” than they used to be. This means many pupils are likely to be continually being told they are “below target for 5 years.

How any of this is going to improve the results remains a mystery. I’m considering heading for the exit. I’m wondering whether it would be any better anywhere else. Perhaps it’s time for a career change…

 

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2 thoughts on “Brave new world

  1. CJ

    I hopped over from Twitter to read this, and find myself nodding at every turn – even though I do teach arty subjects (and languages).

    And this –

    A significant minority of my pupils think I should be grateful if they write the date or copy the board. I have to make them read the comments and respond.

    – is spot on.

    Reply
  2. Ariadne Jones

    I completely agree. I spend so much of my time levelling work, where the sub-levels mean very little to myself or to the students. They are disappointed and become unmotivated when they see these levels fluctuating each topic, and would be far better motivated if they were praised on their effort and personal achievement, rather than being compared to every other student in the school.

    With the number of students I have, I find that I can either mark homework and tests, or their books, not both.

    I’ve only been teaching for a few years, but already it feels like we are being forced to jump through hoops rather than provide an in-depth education which caters personally for our students.

    I know a lot of incredible teachers looking into career changes at the moment. Such a shame.

    Reply

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