The 5 things you need to know from the Commission on Assessment without Levels report

The findings of the Commission on Assessment without Levels, originally established in February 2015 to bring greater clarity to the move beyond levels, were finally published last week. But what exactly does the report say? Here are the 5 things you need to know.

1. Build strong formative assessment into your policy Instead of thinking of assessment in terms of summative marks and test-based accountability, the Commission recommends that:

  • ‘High quality’ formative assessment is what ‘goes to the very heart of good teaching’
  • All assessments should be ‘linked to the curriculum followed by the school’ so that ‘good teaching and assessment continually reinforce each other’
  • Formative assessment can be ‘used for diagnostic purposes’, helping teachers and students to understand progress at a more granular level so pupils know exactly what they need to do to improve
2. Align your assessment framework to the official definition of ‘mastery’ The Commission has clarified once and for all that ‘Mastery learning’ refers to the approach originally developed by Benjamin Bloom in the 1960s. In summary this means you should:
  • Break learning down into individual units. Students must demonstrate 'mastery' of each unit before being allowed to move on to the next
  • The founding assumption is that all students can achieve 'mastery' if they are supported to do so
  • 'Mastery’ does not, then, refer only to high attainment
3. Involve all school stakeholders to make your policy a success Whilst the Commission is explicit that it does not aim to prescribe any specific assessment methods, it is full of examples of good practice. Frequently throughout the report, the Commission notes how impressed it is with approaches to assessment made ‘in consultation with teachers, parents, and pupils.’ Specifically:
  • Parents should understand what you are assessing so that they can act on their child’s reports
  • Teachers need to buy-in to your policy to create strong links between teaching and learning
  • Students must know what the point of assessment is so that they can use feedback to improve
4. Reduce the burden of data reporting for teachers Adding to growing concerns over excessive teacher workload, the Commission found that 56% of teachers felt reporting, inputting, monitoring, and analysing data to be burdensome. 45% said that data duplication specifically added to their workload. There are ways to start reducing this burden which we recommend you can build into your new assessment policy:
  • Record marks in an online Markbook to avoid duplication
  • Link formative and summative data to avoid double entry by teachers
  • Set expectations on a per teacher basis of how much work your new policy requires
5. Align your CPD to your assessment policy rollout Many schools are just beginning the journey towards assessment without levels. As such, the Commission advocates aligning CPD to ensure all teachers have a ‘rigorous and shared understanding’ of the importance of a school’s new assessment process and policy. A full list of its concluding recommendations can be found here, so watch out for further developments soon. 6. (Bonus point!) Understand how Ofsted will inspect your assessment framework And finally, take a look at our previous blog to find out the 3 things Ofsted will be looking for when they inspect your new policy and framework