What are we tracking?


This follows on from my suggestion on targets (if we really have to have them).

Many high schools had and have some kind of tracking system. Teachers are burdened by three pieces of data per student: a target; a predicted grade; and a present grade (tracking).

We could probably manage with just a soft target and teacher predicted grade (this being the teacher’s opportunity to say whether or not a student is ‘on track’).

There are many problems with the present (tracking) grade. There were many before levels were scrapped, but now they are even more meaningless.

Maths teachers are fortunate in that an exam on everything will often capture a snapshot and indicate ‘what the student would get if they were to do the GCSE now’. However for other subjects, the honest answer to that question may be an old U or G because there are so many topics the student simply hasn’t done yet. So in my experience what then happens is that SLT rephrase the question to ‘what would the student get if they carry on doing the future topics as well as they have done the previous ones’ and then it may as well be a predicted grade. Add to all this the number of caveats different departments will give at say a parents evening eg ‘our policy is to deliberately underestimate so that they don’t get complacent’, or ‘they didn’t do this subject at primary so we have a different starting point to other depts’. You get the idea. Add to all this the trauma of appraisal and the fear that your appraisor doesn’t understand the particular subtleties of your subject or that class and the whole thing is a mess particularly now with so many recent changes. Even so it always will be messy because there is no neat way of measuring students and teachers.

If we scrapped tracking grades we could spend more time talking about the subject itself. At parents evening (or in report writing), rather than having to explain a particular grade teachers could be freed up to say for example ‘he got 57% in a recent test. This was done by just our set/whole yr group. He was disappointed with this because … / This was a good score because (the rest of the class scored less)’. I hope you get the idea here.

Primary teachers seem to be coming out saying things like yes we just nudged them from a 2a to a 3c the next term, of from a 2a to a 3b if they seemed brighter. Massive apologies to primary colleague who really did believe you could feel or test accurate to a sublevel, but these are the kind of things I’m hearing and reading. If high school teachers were honest we may hear things like, ‘well they were on 6c, there was no test since the last one but their end of yr target was 6a so I put down a 6b for now’ without looking at any level descriptors.

Finally, what are we tracking?

We are probably tracking the ability for a teacher to state a set of grades somewhere between two other sets of grades, which causes least offence to students, least complaints from parents, but which produces the greenest spreadsheets for management.

Oh, and we may be tracking ‘progress’ but nowhere near as accurately as people think.