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Surviving A.P.P.

September 12, 2009

Previously, I talked about Assessing Pupil Progress (A.P.P.), the latest bats-arsed initiative foisted on teachers in core subjects. It consists of a list of “Assessment Foci” (AFs) which have to be ticked off as students achieve them. I described how A.P.P. was incoherent, and based on ideas that had repeatedly failed in the past. I also expressed concern that it was being used for summative assessment in place of more reliable methods of assessment.

Here I will suggest how middle managers stuck with implementing A.P.P., i.e. those who can’t simply refuse, can do so without having to change their assessment routines very much, or making their department do anything too demanding.

Here’s my suggestion. Get your list of AFs. (I am assuming here that you have already been given these by whoever is forcing A.P.P. on you in the first place. If they haven’t there are a number of websites where you can find them.) In order to avoid identifying my subject, I will take the AFs, in the example that follows from the nursery rhyme “Monday’s Child”. Then, assuming you already test your students regularly (and extensively) wait until it is time for the next scheduled test. Then go through the test paper and pick somewhere between five and twelve questions (the more often you test, the fewer questions you will need) which match up well to some of the AFs. This will take a bit of time if you use a multitude of different tests, but, it shouldn’t be too difficult and if you have a large department should not take very long.

This should give you a list of key questions with corresponding AFs.

e.g.

Question AF
2 Student is fair of face
3 Student is full of grace.
7 Student is full of woe.
8 Student has far to go.
10 Student is loving
11 Student is giving.
13 Student works hard for a living.
14 Student is bonny
17 Student is blithe
19 Student is good
20 Student is gay.

When teachers mark the test, they will mark it and calculate the grade/level as normal.

However, as well as this they will fill in a table like the following (which has been printed out for them) which lists the names of the students in the class and the key questions:

Student/Question

2

3

7

8

10

11

13

14

17

19

20

Jordan Monday                      
Ryan Tuesday                      
Chantel Wednesday                      
Lee Thursday                      
Siobhan Friday                      
Jodine Saturday                      
Sean Sunday                      

Teachers indicate where a student has got full marks on aquestion, or where a student has scored nothing.

E.g.:

Student/Question

2

3

7

8

10

11

13

14

17

19

20

Jordan Monday Y     N       N      
Ryan Tuesday   Y         N     N N
Chantel Wednesday     Y     N          
Lee Thursday       Y   N          
Siobhan Friday N       Y     N     N
Jodine Saturday   N N     Y Y        
Sean Sunday       N       Y Y Y Y

This is the one extra bit of work for classroom teachers, however, it is something that can be quite useful for formative assessment. It is certainly something I have done without ever intending to use it for A.P.P.. This data can then be entered in a spreadsheet or database for all students. (Okay, this bit requires some work, but hopefully it can be passed on to admin staff.)

Now, either by setting up a database to do it for you, or by cutting and pasting from the spreadsheet (on Microsoft Excel, the “Paste Special” option may be useful for transposing) you can create a new spreadsheet or database table in which the questions have been replaced with the AFs:

Student/AF Student is fair of face Student is full of grace. Student is full of woe. Student has far to go. Student is loving Student is giving. Student works hard for a living. Student is bonny Student is blithe Student is good Student is gay.
Jordan Monday Y     N       N      
Ryan Tuesday   Y         N     N N
Chantel Wednesday     Y     N          
Lee Thursday       Y   N          
Siobhan Friday N       Y     N     N
Jodine Saturday   N N     Y Y        
Sean Sunday       N       Y Y Y Y

With each further test you can add to this data. You can leave the data in this format or use sorting (on a spreadsheet) or reports (on a database) to manipulate this data into something more individualised:

E.g.:

Student: Ryan Tuesday  
AFs met: Student is full of grace.
AFs to be met: Student works hard for a living.
  Student is good
  Student is gay.

Use the grade given by the test for summative assessment, and present this AF-referenced data whenever you are asked for evidence of A.P.P.. I believe this is all a relatively small amount of work to comply with A.P.P., assuming you already have a suitable testing system in place. More importantly, it allows you to keep existing tests where they have worked well, and bolt A.P.P. on top of them, rather than replacing tests that work with A.P.P. bollocks.

That said, any further suggestions or enhancements to this method would be welcome. (Please don’t bother suggesting ignoring A.P.P. or forging all the data; the above assumes that you can’t get away with that.)

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6 comments

  1. to take the idea further- only do it for 3 kids…

    thats what some blurb says is required.

    then use the rank order from the test to ascribe levels for the other kids.

    you may wish to know, now that term has started, that 3 headteachers in our ‘cluster’ have rejected APP.

    hopefully the sanity can spread…. though i shant hold my breath.


  2. This is all very elegent, but I can’t help feel that actually using APP would be a lot less burdensome.

    For me, the biggest problem is in the amount of bits of paper involved, but I have created a simplified format for my department to use.

    Without meaning to seem awkward, I still have reservations about your reservations over APP.


  3. I really dont see how using APP (in how its been described by the dfes website or the LEA INSETs) could possibly be less burdensome than the suggestion above.

    Schools have pre-exisitng tests that would have been sat and marked anyhow.

    So this would involve just tacking on the APP approach.

    You still have the robustness and fairness of the test but, if beurocrats still insist upon it, you have the APP AF’s ticked off as well.

    You know, I sometimes ask myself, if you were about to be operated on by a surgeon, would you choose the surgeon who had been through a battery of challenging, standardised, theory and practical examinations proving independant competence, knowledge and expertise or a surgeon who has collaborated on the creation of a brain storm poster outlining the key concepts of the surgery concerned?

    If you think I’m exagerating I would entreat viewers to peruse the examplar materials on the dfes APP site for Science.

    Apparently, the creation of revision index cards and posters and the participation in debates are all potential evidence for AF’s.

    I think they should get rid of the driving test too…. its far too stressful. As long as you can discuss driving and do a 3 point turn with the help of 3 other team members I reckon that should be enough…..


  4. Why not simply avoid APP altogether? It is not statutory, just tell SLT your existing methods of assessment and tracking are more reliable and rigorous than the APP approach and you see no need to move backwards.



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