Grade boundaries

12th October 2007 at 01:00
With regard to the item published in The TES about the drop in grades mystifying teachers, I may be able to throw some light on the subject. I have, like Mr Chesney, taught A-level art for more than 30 years. Also, I am a moderator for A-level art and design for the Edexcel exam board.

I think it best to describe the events in chronological order. When Edexcel decided to reduce the number of units from six to four, teachers and moderators were delighted. The change would mean that students would have more time to produce more work in more depth, therefore increasing achievement and understanding. At the standardisation meeting of moderators, the team leaders and subject heads were alerted to the consequence of the change, which would be higher marks.

Soon after the moderation progress had begun, all moderators received an urgent email from chief examiners warning them of the return of high marks, implying that moderators should reduce rather than accept teachers' marks or raise them.

When I moderated the centres I was appointed to, I decided to ignore the board's email and moderate these centres, and mark my own school's work according to the marking scheme and taxonomy that the exam board publishes. When the results came out, I was astonished to find that marks had been reduced and candidates were awarded lower grades than predicted.

I did an analysis of the results at my school and discovered that not only had grade boundaries been increased but also that marks had been arbitrarily reduced. As a moderator, knowing what I had done at the schools I moderated, I telephoned them to discover that the same reductions had happened. I know that I did not reduce the centre's marks. Therefore, this downgrading happened post-moderation.

A number of issues arise from this debacle:

* the future lack of confidence in the hitherto exemplary exam board

* that bureaucrats have made decisions without ever seeing any of the work done by the students

* the knock-on effect of AS candidates going into A2, where they may not be awarded their true grade because of being downgraded in the AS units

* possible loss of offers from their chosen courses at university.

T Raybould

Art teacher,

Northampton School for Boys,

Northampton

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