A-levels mess

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FlammableFlower
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Re: mess

Post by FlammableFlower » Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:48 am

snoozeofreason wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 10:28 am
Allo V Psycho wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 7:55 am
FlammableFlower wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 6:48 am
:lol: indeed

I was annoyed by their rather lame and peevish comment that was reported on radio 4 PM programme last night - that other countries have used such a system and its fine. Really? Which countries exactly? I certainly haven't heard of any. And was it really so great?
The Germans held exams as usual
https://www.dw.com/en/germany-school-le ... a-52917576
The French based the Bac on continuous assessment work, and as a result had a much higher pass rate, putting strain on University places
https://www.connexionfrance.com/French- ... inal-exams
This review is quite interesting, for the three strategies of cancel, delay, or modify exams.
https://blogs.worldbank.org/education/h ... t-approach

Of the three approaches mentioned, my view is that the best would have been to have held exams as usual, modifying for social distancing etc., with on line elements where feasible. Delay those elements where modification not feasible. That’s what I did, in my own particular pond.
To be fair, back in March, the government was facing a lot of pressure to cancel exams - from the media, schools, and the public. If they had decided to go ahead with them, they would have had to hold the line against increasing opposition for several months. It might have been technically possible, but it would have been difficult to push it through if significant numbers of people - particularly schools, pupils, and parents - had been unenthusiastic.

In addition, there would have been significant unfairness, because some pupils would have been much better able to prepare during the school closures than others due to better home environment, more supportive parents and schools, etc. And the beneficiaries would likely to have been the students from more wealthy families.
This is true to an extent, but it still doesn't take into account the amount of time they had to prepare. They showed no leadership/help towards schools and just left them to their own devices. Not A-levels, but GCSE levels, I know of some teachers who continued doing Zoom teaching throughout the remainder of the term whereas my own kids' school was so unbelievably useless it astounded me. They had 2 phonecalls to ask how they were doing from their form tutors; my year 11 son just got "that's it" and my year 9 daughter had sporadic bits of work on Show My Homework with one invite to a Zoom lesson in English right at the end of the year.

Why not ask schools to audit/estimate what tech support they were likely to need? Throw laptops/tablets at them, in the bigger picture it wouldn't make that much difference. Ask schools to show what they're going to do to meet learning requirements. Push back the exam dates.

Unis, in the main, still ran exams in some form in May (we did the online release with 24-hour deadline format, allowing students to sit them in the August (re)assessment period should they feel they had insufficient time or resources or had health issues). It shouldn't have been outside the wit of the DfE to come up with something.

At the very minimum they should have realised there would be far more appeals likely and so separated the exam release date and university admissions deadline to allow for the dust to settle before uni places got finalised.

Did they really spend 4 months on an algorithm that they thought was going to work just as if it was any normal year?

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Re: A-levels mess

Post by FlammableFlower » Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:50 am

PeteB wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:18 am
Gavin, posing with whip and book of Conservative Party MPs indiscretions

https://images.app.goo.gl/oSqLbnMurG1DL53t8
WTF?:
The inclusion of the whip was definitely The inclusion of a whip in this picture was "definitely a message to the PM", said one MP
Yes Gavin, what this situation really needs right now is a bit more party politics.

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Re: A-levels mess

Post by AMS » Tue Aug 18, 2020 12:17 pm

FlammableFlower wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:50 am
PeteB wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:18 am
Gavin, posing with whip and book of Conservative Party MPs indiscretions

https://images.app.goo.gl/oSqLbnMurG1DL53t8
WTF?:
The inclusion of the whip was definitely The inclusion of a whip in this picture was "definitely a message to the PM", said one MP
Yes Gavin, what this situation really needs right now is a bit more party politics.
Where on earth do they find these utter, utter bell-ends?

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Re: A-levels mess

Post by PeteB » Tue Aug 18, 2020 12:20 pm


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Re: mess

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Aug 18, 2020 12:34 pm

FlammableFlower wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:48 am
Did they really spend 4 months on an algorithm that they thought was going to work just as if it was any normal year?
It does sometimes seem like the only thing keeping the UK from turning into a cyberpunk dystopia is technological incompetence.
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Re: mess

Post by jimbob » Tue Aug 18, 2020 12:47 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 12:34 pm
FlammableFlower wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:48 am
Did they really spend 4 months on an algorithm that they thought was going to work just as if it was any normal year?
It does sometimes seem like the only thing keeping the UK from turning into a cyberpunk dystopia is technological incompetence.
An algorithm that happened to confirm the publicly-stated prejudices of Dominic Cummings.
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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snoozeofreason
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Re: mess

Post by snoozeofreason » Tue Aug 18, 2020 1:11 pm

FlammableFlower wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:48 am
snoozeofreason wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 10:28 am
To be fair, back in March, the government was facing a lot of pressure to cancel exams - from the media, schools, and the public. If they had decided to go ahead with them, they would have had to hold the line against increasing opposition for several months. It might have been technically possible, but it would have been difficult to push it through if significant numbers of people - particularly schools, pupils, and parents - had been unenthusiastic.

In addition, there would have been significant unfairness, because some pupils would have been much better able to prepare during the school closures than others due to better home environment, more supportive parents and schools, etc. And the beneficiaries would likely to have been the students from more wealthy families.
This is true to an extent, but it still doesn't take into account the amount of time they had to prepare. They showed no leadership/help towards schools and just left them to their own devices. Not A-levels, but GCSE levels, I know of some teachers who continued doing Zoom teaching throughout the remainder of the term whereas my own kids' school was so unbelievably useless it astounded me. They had 2 phonecalls to ask how they were doing from their form tutors; my year 11 son just got "that's it" and my year 9 daughter had sporadic bits of work on Show My Homework with one invite to a Zoom lesson in English right at the end of the year.

Why not ask schools to audit/estimate what tech support they were likely to need? Throw laptops/tablets at them, in the bigger picture it wouldn't make that much difference. Ask schools to show what they're going to do to meet learning requirements. Push back the exam dates.

Unis, in the main, still ran exams in some form in May (we did the online release with 24-hour deadline format, allowing students to sit them in the August (re)assessment period should they feel they had insufficient time or resources or had health issues). It shouldn't have been outside the wit of the DfE to come up with something.

At the very minimum they should have realised there would be far more appeals likely and so separated the exam release date and university admissions deadline to allow for the dust to settle before uni places got finalised.

Did they really spend 4 months on an algorithm that they thought was going to work just as if it was any normal year?
Just for the sake of clarity, my comment referred specifically to AVP's suggestion that exams should have been held as usual (with social distancing). Clearly the government has made a mess of the situation, but I don't think they could have de-messed it by resisting the pressure to cancel A-Levels and GCSE exams.

I am not sure that it would have worked to move the exams online either. I know that uni's did this - including the one I work for. But, even with the relatively small cohorts taking a university exam, there are significant opportunities for plagiarism. With tens of thousands of students it would be much worse, because it's much harder to spot that student A has colluded with student B if both are part of a cohort that large.

A move to coursework assessment might have worked better - particularly if students were asked for evidence of process (intermediate versions of the courseworks, for example) to reduce opportunities for academic misconduct. Throwing resources at the schools and students would have helped a bit as well (I gather that my own local authority tried to do this, but the resources didn't seem to get to the people who needed them, and they weren't well chosen anyway). But there would still have been a significant advantage to students from more advantageous backgrounds - either because they were wealthier, or because they had more supportive parents, or maybe parents who teach for a living.

In short, the government made a major mess of this, and some things were so obvious - separating exam result dates and university deadlines for example - that it is colossally incompetent not to have done them. But there weren't any mess-free solutions. I am just glad that my two sons were doing uni finals rather than A Levels. I think we would have done relatively well at home-ed (I do teach for a living, and while not rich, we weren't worrying about money) but I am glad I never had to put it to the test.
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. The human body was knocked up pretty late on the Friday afternoon, with a deadline looming. How well do you expect it to work?

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Re: A-levels mess

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Aug 18, 2020 2:00 pm

Piece in the Graun making many of the points raised in this thread about A levels in general - beyond the algirithm they're of limited use, and the university entrance system as it stands reinforces privilege at high social cost:
To see how bizarre this is look at the school system, where experts have shunned the use of academic selection in light of evidence that creaming off the most able children into separate schools does barely anything for their learning and simply worsens outcomes for everyone else.

Yet for some reason, when it comes to post-18 education, we turn this on its head and go for extreme levels of academic stratification – which, because children from more affluent backgrounds are much more likely to attend good-quality schools, also produces a highly socially stratified university system. You get tutors worrying about whether a student has the ability to complete a course at their university if they’ve dropped a couple of grades, without ever wondering whether this says a whole lot more about the quality of teaching at their institution than the student in question. (It absolutely does.)

This system works brilliantly for the most selective universities, who get to select the highest A-level performers who hail disproportionately from affluent backgrounds, then claim the kudos when – surprise, surprise! – those students go on to do well. But it also fuels unjustified elitism. Because universities essentially mark their own homework – a first from one university is not equivalent to a first from another – employers tend to use the university someone attended as a shorthand for their labour market potential, rather than the skills they actually developed there. The prophecy becomes self-fulfilling. We couldn’t design a better way to entrench privilege if we tried.
We don’t need A-level results to provide a high-stakes ranking. If we were more honest about the limits of meritocracy, we would move to a more comprehensive-style university system – where, like at school, young people of different abilities learn alongside each other, with real academic benefit. More large employers would disregard A-level grades and degrees, running aptitude tests and assessment centres to assess the skills relevant to their workplaces, randomly selecting from those candidates who make a cut-off to ensure a more diverse intake than interviewing could ever allow.

We have extensively debated the fairness of an algorithm, but let’s not fail to ask why we even needed one in the first place. The real reason is that the system as it stands shores up elitism and maintains the grip that the upper middle class – for no good reason – has on influential jobs. But this weak attempt to fake meritocracy is a harmful pretence that denies too many young people a chance in the first place.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... ties-exams

The UK does seem very much an outlier internationally, in terms of a very high degree of specialisation pre-18 and highly hierarchical universities.
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Re: mess

Post by monkey » Tue Aug 18, 2020 2:11 pm

jimbob wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 9:03 am
shpalman wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 7:57 am
The exams we've done so far, via Zoom, for the first year students at the polimi seem to have worked out with an average mark and pass rate similar to last year's.

(ETA the polimi's entrance exam was also done online but using a different platform, with a locked-down browser and an AI watching the webcam.)
My daughter's finals turned into coursework with 24-hours deadline, and assuming people would use textbooks etc, which I'd think is a better measure of competence than a traditional exam. There are precious few situations after university where one would have to remember* degree-level information that one doesn't use every day.

*as opposed to understand it
That's how my exam is done normally. The small class of graduate students* get 48 hrs to do it though. To get full marks they'd have to do some independent thinking and looking up of things outside of the course material. To pass, they could just get by looking up stuff from their notes and textbook, but our graduate students have to average a B or better to continue. It's harder to set the questions and mark, but I reckon it's a better test of ability. I also reckon that you remember stuff better if you have to look it up for a task rather than just trying to cram it all in your head in case it comes up in an exam, but that's based on my experience.

I am not sure that this years A-Levels/GCSEs could have been converted to this sort of assessment in such a short time without getting it wrong in places, and like Snoozeofreason says, with a large number of students collusion is more likely and would be harder to spot. But I reckon they could have a back up plan ready for the next pandemic.


*It's the US, they still have to do lectures.

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Re: A-levels mess

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Aug 18, 2020 2:31 pm

Part of the problem is making the grades dependent on a single exam, as EPD pointed out. Spread the exams over two years, multiple papers, plus coursework, and suddenly you've got a more robust design instead of a single point of failure.

It also means students are less at risk of f.cking up their university entrance and thus entire future* by having a bad day.

*Not actually true, of course, but that's the fear they try to instill in you throughout childhood.
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Re: A-levels mess

Post by monkey » Tue Aug 18, 2020 3:11 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 2:31 pm
Part of the problem is making the grades dependent on a single exam, as EPD pointed out. Spread the exams over two years, multiple papers, plus coursework, and suddenly you've got a more robust design instead of a single point of failure.

It also means students are less at risk of f.cking up their university entrance and thus entire future* by having a bad day.

*Not actually true, of course, but that's the fear they try to instill in you throughout childhood.
That's how my A-Levels worked. I managed to have several bad days without f.cking up my future.

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Re: A-levels mess

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Aug 18, 2020 4:02 pm

Yes, likewise.

It was Gove who changed it.
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Re: A-levels mess

Post by Grumble » Tue Aug 18, 2020 4:21 pm

Just seen this photo shared on Twitter
Attachments
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I know this is vitriol, no solution, spleen venting, but I feel better having screamed, don’t you?

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Re: A-levels mess

Post by snoozeofreason » Tue Aug 18, 2020 4:39 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 4:02 pm
Yes, likewise.

It was Gove who changed it.
With help from Dominic Cummings.
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. The human body was knocked up pretty late on the Friday afternoon, with a deadline looming. How well do you expect it to work?

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Re: A-levels mess

Post by Little waster » Tue Aug 18, 2020 4:40 pm

Grumble wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 4:21 pm
Just seen this photo shared on Twitter

Something something something Hay-Levels?
Shamelessly recycling old jokes since 1952.

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Re: A-levels mess

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Aug 18, 2020 4:49 pm

Williams announces U-turn on locking-stable-door policy.
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Re: A-levels mess

Post by Grumble » Tue Aug 18, 2020 5:15 pm

I love the expressions on the squaddies faces.
I know this is vitriol, no solution, spleen venting, but I feel better having screamed, don’t you?

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Re: A-levels mess

Post by Allo V Psycho » Tue Aug 18, 2020 7:01 pm

I dunno, I've had a long hard day dealing with this stuff, and I'm probably feeling a bit grumpy but:

1) Exams do measure something and to a useful extent predict future work place performance.

2) Other attributes are important, but are hard to measure with the degree of reliability needed to make decisions based on them: and decisions need to be made.

3) There are systematic biases in the current English system, probably rather worse than in some other jurisdictions. These are addressable (though difficult) but there is no political will to do so. Kids from less privileged backgrounds suffer more than those from privileged backgrounds. BAME kids suffer most.

4) EVERYBODY WORKING IN THIS FIELD KNOWS THIS STUFF.

5) BOAF: Narrow specialisation is not a 'UK' thing. In Scotland a wider range of Highers are undertaken.

6) BOAF: a 'good memory' may represent an ability to form effective mental schemas rapidly, and therefore be a marker for future success.

7) Modified exams could have been

I should apologise now (takes another swig of Tamnavulin)

I apologise, everyone. Especially BOAF.

(Takes another swig of Tamnavulin)

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Re: mess

Post by discovolante » Tue Aug 18, 2020 7:23 pm

Grumble wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 9:32 pm
Trinucleus wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 6:13 pm
jimbob wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 4:20 pm
I wonder what this "week in Tory" is going to be like. Shambolic even by their standards and it's only Monday.
What they need is someone who noticed what happened in Scotland two weeks ago, and suggested it might happen in England.

Someone good at predicting. A sort of super-predictor.......
Why should they bother checking on things from abroad? Honestly, it’s not like this “scotland” place is near London.
They had a heads up from their own party... https://twitter.com/ScotTories/status/1 ... 89890?s=20
don't get any big ideas, they're not gonna happen

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Re: mess

Post by raven » Wed Aug 19, 2020 1:01 pm

Trinucleus wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 6:13 pm
jimbob wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 4:20 pm
I wonder what this "week in Tory" is going to be like. Shambolic even by their standards and it's only Monday.
What they need is someone who noticed what happened in Scotland two weeks ago, and suggested it might happen in England.

Someone good at predicting. A sort of super-predictor.......
A day before the results came out the DfE announced pupils would have a triple lock, ie be able to appeal if the estimated grade was worse than prior mock results. So someone knew this could go tits up. But only at the last minute.

Not so much of a prediction, more we've just spotted what's about to hit the fan and are scrambling for cover....

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Re: A-levels mess

Post by dyqik » Wed Aug 19, 2020 5:06 pm

Charlie Falconer has given a set of handy pointers to anyone who feels like suing the government over this mess: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2 ... ays-labour

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Re: A-levels mess

Post by Martin Y » Tue Aug 25, 2020 4:48 pm

The head of Ofqual is just going outside. She may be some time.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-53909487

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Re: A-levels mess

Post by FlammableFlower » Tue Aug 25, 2020 8:35 pm

Martin Y wrote:
Tue Aug 25, 2020 4:48 pm
The head of Ofqual is just going outside. She may be some time.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-53909487
I notice Gavin hasn't joined her.

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Re: A-levels mess

Post by JQH » Tue Aug 25, 2020 10:17 pm

FlammableFlower wrote:
Tue Aug 25, 2020 8:35 pm
Martin Y wrote:
Tue Aug 25, 2020 4:48 pm
The head of Ofqual is just going outside. She may be some time.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-53909487
I notice Gavin hasn't joined her.
Maybe he pushed her?
And remember that if you botch the exit, the carnival of reaction may be coming to a town near you.

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Re: A-levels mess

Post by Sciolus » Wed Aug 26, 2020 8:19 am

Maybe I've missed it, but the key question I haven't seen asked or answered is: Who made the decision that the top priority should be avoiding grade inflation? That is one of the key decisions that caused the mess (the other being sticking to the original timetable). Since it's a policy decision presumably it was made by government, not Ofqual.

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