NFER have published a really interesting (short) paper on assessment in the light of the demise of levels, and the rise of norm referenced assessment in core subjects. The recent DfE consultation on assessment and the Ofsted framework both suggest that there will be increasing emphasis upon assessing progress, rather than obsessing about levels. This is a good thing. However, a variety of questions are being begged and it is not at all clear what will happen, or how best to support schools.
It is intriguing to speculate as to whether it is necessary to reinvent levels, as a set of exemplified national benchmarks, in order for schools to assess progress, or whether it would be better to abandon the notion assessing against an external standard altogether.
If Ofsted will be pursuing the capacity of a school to assess progress, perhaps the key task is to support schools to define and assess the progress their students have made from a given starting point towards the learning objectives specified in their own programme of study. Do we seek to measure progress towards internal objectives or against external standards? If we are to explore the issue honestly I guess we should ask some serious questions about whether levels ever did, or ever could, define absolute standards. NFER makes the point that they were useful in modelling assessment and providing a shared vocabulary. But did they ever define a shared ‘standard’?