Thursday, 13 June 2013


I don't know about you but I am struggling at the moment to understand the obsession with GCSEs, new grading systems and the constant running down of the achievements of our young people and their teachers. To achieve world-class outcomes, we need a new approach driving cultural and system change and if we really want to be successful we need to achieve deeper levels of engagement by all headteachers, teachers and other stakeholders and we need to work together to create a more collaborative and cooperative approach. The DfE, ministers and politicians constantly moan about what was or wasn't achieved over the last fifteen years, running down GCSEs, complaining about grade inflation and harking back to gold standards. I think I have struggled this week because everyone appears to muddle up standards, curriculum, assessment and accountability as they complain about a lack of academic rigour. We need to go back to basics and establish some ground rules and some definitions:
  • Standards are a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated. They set agreed-upon expectations for what children should know in certain subjects by certain ages. 
  • Curriculum is an integrated course of studies which sets out the materials and the approaches that teachers use to help young people learn.
  • Assessment is the act of judging or assessing a person or situation or event to determine what students know, understand and can do and hopefully to establish next what the steps should be in their learning. 
  • Accountability is responsibility for systems for tracking student performance, determining which schools and teachers are succeeding or struggling, and providing support or intervening where necessary. 
In his article "Muddying the Waters" Peter Cunningham explains that...
"For anyone still confused, a track-and-field metaphor might help: The standard is the bar that students must jump over to be competitive. The curriculum is the training program coaches use to help students get over the bar. The assessment is the track meet where we find out how high everyone can jump. And the accountability system is what follows after its all over and we want to figure out what went right, what went wrong, and what it will take to help kids jump higher." 
Peter Cunningham is an independent communications strategist based in Chicago and a former assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education.

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