System change is a pain in the assessment

1st July 2011 at 01:00

I am not surprised that the national solution to years of poor assessment of extended writing should be to consider abandoning the writing tests at age 11 ("Writing tests to be dropped from Sats", 24 June).

Despite constant revision of national guidelines on assessment, years of annually changing criteria as they alter the test, and secret guidance and criteria for markers not shared with schools, the national bodies have failed to develop a rigorous and accurate approach to assessment of writing.

It is a puzzle how extended writing has been accurately assessed (in the main) in other testing and examination situations and, indeed, was in the 11-plus for so many years (not that I am an advocate of that system). Furthermore, tracking of children through assessment of a different text type every year is like comparing apples with pears and pears with oranges.

Our own assessment system - the Criterion Scale, for assessment of writing (consistent and accurate for 11 years with no changes) - has had to assess slightly below national standards in order to cope with the vagaries of the test criteria and markers. This has been the only way we have been able to guarantee that all children assessed as level 4 or above on our scales will actually achieve those levels in national tests.

We would guarantee that we could provide a fair and accurate national assessment system for writing - why can't successive governments of this country?

Ros Wilson, Educational consultant behind Big Writing, Wakefield.

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