Saturday, 16 February 2008

Pass marks in new tests lowered

The Daily Mail reports that pass marks in the revamped Sats tests are to be lowered to prevent a surge in the number failing. Officials announced the changes after pupils performed worse than expected in trials of new-look English and maths tests for 11 and 14-year-olds. Whitehall said the move would align standards in the new tests more closely with the existing system. The decision to reduce pass marks had already been taken by the time the trials started late last year, they insisted.

But the Tories accused the Government of "fiddling" the figures. Ministers have signalled that the new tests could replace existing Sats within two years.

The revamped regime gives pupils two chances a year - in December and June - to move up a level in the National Curriculum system. Currently, children must wait until they take Sats at the end of a Key Stage to discover which level they are working at. In trials of the new system in 411 schools in December, "unexpected patterns" emerged in the results. Officials said these trials awarded pupils a "level four" - the standard expected of 11-year-olds - only if their answers were judged to be "securely within" the grade level. But for the next tests in June, children will be given a level four if they just scrape over the grade boundary. This will bring the new tests into line with the existing Sats.

"We have not lowered standards," The Department for Children, Schools and Families said.
"As before, pupils will need to reach level four in order to attain a national curriculum level four.
"We made a technical change to the pilot, which is that for the next round of tests in June pupils will need to have reached or be working within a level, rather than having completed or be working securely within a level. This is the same standard as is used in the current national curriculum tests. We are simply running a pilot, part of which is testing out different assessment models.


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