We are the three consultants who were employed by the Scottish Executive Education Department to advise on the interpretation of the examination results statistics (STACS), a process which needs to be carried out with caution as there are many factors affecting performance.
A number of measures are available to support the evaluation of examination performance, but Ron Mitchell's letter last week concentrates on the use of just one of these. He suggests that the use of percentages based on presentations could lead to a situation in which pupils would be denied the opportunity to sit an examination in order to make the final statistics look good.
If percentages based on presentations were the only values used, then this might be the case but the STACs core tables show presentations as a percentage of roll so that such presentation policies can be exposed. The training materials, the online help and the national seminars have emphasised the use of all measures to build up an overall view of performance in a course over a period of time.
The use of percentages based on roll is very dependent on the level of presentations for the course. In our own interpretation, we prefer to isolate the effect of the level of presentations and look at that separately. We then turn to the performance of those pupils who took the course and look at that. The point that is missing from Mr Mitchell's letter is that this is the final step, not the only one.
The SEED provides a vast array of statistics in order to satisfy the needs of those who wish to analyse the data in their own way. It is difficult to meet all the requirements of all users in one manageable set of data. A set of core tables containing a useful subset of measures has been produced.
For those who wish to use other measures, these are available.
It should also be said, as Mr Mitchell knows, that the current position is temporary. In the new year, when the full STACS development has been completed, users will be able to choose either or both of the above methods of expressing performance.
Tony Flisch, Alistair Fyfe Stewart Jardine Af Consultancy, Glasgow