A clearer system muddies the waters

ITALY. Are your pupils "very good" or "excellent"? Or are they just plain "good"? This is a puzzler that most teachers could probably do without. But the new 5-level grid for assessing 6 to 14-year-olds introduced over the summer does not leave teachers much choice for distinguishing at the lower end of pupil performance, where the remaining two levels are "pass"("sufficiente") and "fail" ("non sufficiente").

The new grid was intended to provide clarity and to cut down on teacher paperwork but it looks like being an inadequate tool for teachers trying to produce end-of-term reports. Confusingly, it replaces a grid which was itself introduced only last year and which, like the present document, was also known as the "new assessment grid".

Last year's grid, introduced after 10 years of experimentation in a range of schools, was workable - at least after a simplification ordered by the then education minister Giancarlo Lombardi.

It broke down subjects into five or six content areas, each of which were to be assessed. It also required teachers to produce an early profile of each student, so that families could know how children stood in relation to the class as a whole.

The latest grid has abolished the initial profiling and requires only a single mark for each subject, even though objectives related to content areas remain.

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