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Magic markbook

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There have been many times during my work when I have questioned the principles of attaching figures and grades to children. However, time and time again when I have completed a data collection exercise in a school and presented it to staff they immediately start to talk about children, not figures. When teachers see children's performance presented objectively, they are able to identify strengths and weaknesses and suggest how to move forward. "Number crunching" is for machines: the value of this information is what use is made of it, how it can enhance teachers' professional judgements.

What data should be collected?

Classroom teachers collect and collate volumes of information relating to their pupils.

Formative, everyday information is essential to let teachers know of the success of the objectives they have taught and enhances the ongoing knowledge and understanding of each pupil. Much of this data stays with the teacher or within a faculty. However, every opportunity should be taken to share this with pupils. Summative, key information, that shows the overall performance of the pupil, is shared with other teachers, managers, pupils and parents.

Both forms of assessment records can be collected electronically. Key information required outside the classroom can be abstracted at any time without additional work.

What data already exists?

Every childstudent has a history of quality academic information that can help to indicate future performance. Before an ongoing system can be implemented, this history needs to be collected and stored. This may appear tedious but is worth the effort. Once done, teachers will begin to see real benefits in using ICT to manage assessment and curriculum data.

Collecting data in electronic form Do not attempt to manually enter any results until you are certain that the data does not exist in electronic form. If you have received results from outside the school in the form of a spreadsheet or word-processed document, the data is sitting on a computer somewhere. Locating it may not be easy, but try our Web page:

Names and record sheets

No teacher should need to enter the names of their pupils as these are certainly in electronic form in every school. The school administration system not only has pupil names and addresses but also dates of birth, classes, sets, etc. If you intend to use a stand-alone recording system as in Excel, ask your secretary to export a file to floppy disk containing all the data you need. More details of how to import this can be found at:

Common criteria?

The curriculum has given every school a common set of criteria for assessments in all published subjects, or has it? Schools feel more "comfortable" at identifying which levels pupils have achieved, but the stage within the current working level has brought a multitude of schemes and definitions. Where I work, I have encouraged the use of a simple, widely used set of criteria:

* beginning to work within the level;

* securely working within the level;

* understands most concepts and ideas within the level, preparing to move to the next levels. See:

Setting additional criteria beyond statutory requirements can provide even better indicators of a pupil's progress than national curriculum levels. These would include effort, behaviour, attendance, organisation, and homework. A pupil who gives maximum effort and behaves at all times will progress at hisher ability level. If they do not, the manner in which they are taught needs to be reviewed. Likewise a pupil who appears to be progressing at "normal" rates but lacks effort and behaves badly is capable of higher achievements. Frequent checks in these non-statutory assessment areas will provide useful information about pupils across the curriculum. Visit:

Assessment schemes to "buy"

Many schools have found that "bought" assessment schemes fit into their assessment policies very well. These offer assessment tests, marking schemes, indicators etc. Some are managed by the school, others offer a complete service including marking and reports. Visit:

Things to do before next month'sData Analysis edition

* View

* Get ideas from schools in our case studies

* Download the documents

* Decide which existing data will be useful

* Locate, import or record these

* Confirm which existingnew standardised assessment records to be recorded in future. Use our guidelines but ensure full ownership is achieved by all staff

* Begin to set up your selected software to record new data

* Become absolutely clear why you are collecting this data. Visit:

Lynne Taylor runs Cogent Computer Solutions, based in Kenilworth. Questions can be emailed to

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