Practice marking far from perfect

2nd May 2003 at 01:00
'Disturbing discrepancies' occur in the ways primary teachers grade English tests, Warwick Mansell reports.

THE accuracy of marking in this year's national curriculum tests was this week thrown into question after teachers gave widely differing marks to the same practice papers.

One teacher, who has trained hundreds of staff to mark the redesigned English tests for seven-year-olds, said there were "disturbing discrepancies" in practice marking.

Tom Deveson, who has trained primary teachers from schools across the country this spring, said that staff came up with very different scores for the same piece of writing.

The difference could be up to 10 marks out of 40, he said, meaning the same piece of work could gain a 2a or 2c, according to who marked it.

Teachers' experience, or lack of it, made no difference, said Mr Deveson.

Despite going to great lengths to explain how to apply the marking scheme, the training had failed to iron out the disparities.

In this week's TES Teacher, he writes: "Many experienced teachers are seized with doubt about their ability to match their assessments with those of colleagues or with their own previous judgments."

The key stage 1 tests have been revised this year, with the aim of producing greater consistency in how reading and writing are assessed as well as reducing teaching to the test. Instead of a teacher suggesting a piece of writing to a pupil, children now have to perform two set tasks.

Under the old system, teachers simply attributed a test level to the piece of writing. Now, they give each piece of writing individual scores for spelling, sentence structure, text structure and overall effect.

Mr Deveson said his fears about the accuracy of marking of KS2 tests, which take place next week, were just as strong.

Sue Horner, principal manager for English at QCA, said the the authority would check for marking inaccuracies by moderating a sample of pupils'

work. She was confident teachers would be able to make accurate judgments.

Meanwhile, a leading teacher trainer has joined the attack on the key stage 3 tests. Peter Thomas, a lecturer at the University of Hull, said the mark scheme allowed pupils to score no marks out of six despite demonstrating sophisticated use of language.

lBritain's biggest examination board this week issued a last-minute appeal for markers of next week's key stage 3 English tests. The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance wants markers for the tests from May 17 to June 27.

Up to pound;900 before tax is being offered.

Teacher magazine, 34

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