Good luck to all the pupils waiting for their transfer test results. The children and their parents/guardians are to be commended for their efforts. The children, not least, for being willing to have their numeracy and literacy skills tested and excerising their right to compete for a place in a grammar school. The parents/guardians for supporting the efforts of those schools determined to deliver the equality of opportunity that a transfer test affords. 2013 is the forth year that the “unregulated” tests have been organised and delivered to the highest of standards and it is testament to those who have resisted the determination of an Education Minister hellbound on removing parental choice for a grammar school education to match the needs of their children.
It is important when the results are known not to fall into the annual trap generated by opponents of selection by stressing over the marks or grades (these always remove information and should not ever be compared to the old CCEA grading system) obtained by the pupil. Expect and resist the rumour mill but instead arm yourself with the knowledge that until the admissions process is completed no one can issue a guarantee of a place at any grammar school. The marks/grades from previous years may give a reasonable indication of a school’s 2013 intake but do not be put off in listing a preference because of something someone has told you “on good authority” or “inside information”. Remember that Open Enrolment has resulted in about 42% of post-primary pupils getting a place in a grammar school.
In making a selection of preferences it is important to take into consideration future plans for the schools. There is little benefit in choosing a school which in a short period will no longer be a grammar school. The school is unlikely to inform you of their change in direction, after all they are competing for your child and relying on their marketing efforts. Your child will not benefit in the long run. Forty plus years of research evidence and data on attainment shows that mixed ability schools generally produce lower attainments at GCSE and A-Level.
Add to that the negative impact of the revised curriculum and the entitlement framework and the Education Minister's insistence in breaking parity on examinations with England and this year's cohort of parents making vital decisions on behalf of their children must be sure of their choices.
Specific information on schools will follow
February 4, 2012
Good luck to all pupils awaiting their examination results for Saturday 4th February, 2012. There are no failures among them regardless of the result or score.
The unregulated examinations have been conducted for the past three years without the threatened legal challenge promised by Sinn Fein’s Caitriona Ruane and are now established as the de facto 11-plus replacement for selection to grammar schools.
The difficulties between the two organisations AQE and PPTC are insurmountable so disregard recent utterances from politicians and their compliant friends in the media claiming that they will consolidate the groups into one testing agency. It would appear that the DUP are talking to the PPTC, “the Catholic Test” organisers and perhaps to the GBA, the Governing Bodies Association of the voluntary grammar schools but not to the AQE. As ever the politicians pretend to help but actually have done nothing but try to seize political advantage over a key concern of parents. Mervyn Storey claimed that he had been meeting with both testing groups but reliable sources confirm that no such meetings have taken place with the AQE testing agency.
Ignore all romours about the score required to gain a place at a particular grammar school.
No school principal or teacher has access to information which could allow any such claim. Previous years cut-off scores are only relevant to those years. Do not be put off making application to a school based on romour. Many will propagate disinformation in order to increase the chances of their child gaining a place at your expense.
The admission procedure is controlled by the Education & Library Boards and will not conclude until May. While this period of delay is unjustifiable it should come as no surprise to parents since all of the ELBs have an anti-academic selection and anti-testing stance. If ELBs cared about all pupils they would have taken steps to shorten the timescale.
Remember that there is no equivalency between the two tests. I.E. a particular score (or faux grade) for a GL test cannot be equated to an AQE score. This year quintiles have been dropped because of the deceptive use of the information, particularly by the media, to convert AQE scores into grades. Grades remove information and are therefore unhelpful to pupils and parents.
Top scores in the AQE test are likely to be lower than in previous years because of the availability of practice papers but median scores will be higher.
The GL Assessment test in English was harder this year. This is likely to have been in response to the widespread criticism of flaws in the GL test. With a limited bank of questions available the testing agency may have selected questions with a higher facility score (difficulty) from those available in order to suggest that they have been responsive.
More to follow
UTV broke a story on the unregulated transfer tests http://www.u.tv/News/Transfer-tests-leaked-to-parents/aa9483bf-7684-4e40-926a-e18574a0ab69 UTV decided only to mention this development on their website thereby robbing parents and pupils of an opportunity to ask pertinent questions of their school principals and teachers.
At present GL assessment have yet to deny the growing belief that questions appearing in the 2009 test may re-appear in the 2011 version. If this turns out t be the case the validity and reliability of the PPTC sponsored test is destroyed.
Parents will recall PACE’s previous warning about the lack of specification for the GL Assessment test
February 5, 2011
The Parental Alliance for Choice in Education wish to draw attention to parents of an alternative mechanism for requesting a re-marking of the GL Assessment tests conducted by the PPTC schools. The tests are multiple choice and marked by inserting the answer sheet into an Optical Mark Reader (OMR)
Instructions on remarking are provided by the PPTC as demonstrated via the Ballymena Academy website.
Parents may wish to contact CCEA, the Northern Ireland Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment and request that the official regulator of exams put their child’s test paper through their “Chemistry Exam Special” OMR machine. After all there is no independent body utilized by the PPTC to verify the work of GL Assessment.
Ofqual in their reports into the latest blunder by CCEA made the following information available on how Caitriona Ruane’s specialist organisation treated computer-marked tests last year.
Now since the PPTC fail to explain to parents on behalf of GL Assessment (a) that the computer can only produce an exact same response every time the answer sheet is fed into it and (b) any adjustment to a score can only represent an intervention by a human and would therefore require an explanation of how the error was not detected in the first instance - there is little point in requesting a remark. However it seems that CCEA adjusted the grades and marks of some pupils in an upward direction but no mention is made of the treatment of those pupils who were awarded marks incorrectly.
February 4, 2011
Tomorrow thousands of pupils from throughout Northern Ireland will be awaiting the results of their tests for a place in a grammar school. As predicted the BBC Nolan Show gave a platform for the Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane to emotionally terrorize young listeners and their parents. Having abdicated responsibility for measuring attainment in numeracy and literacy at primary school she has taken to venting her spleen at those who have demonstrated her irrelevance. It is clear that demand for places at grammar schools is as strong as ever and an equality of opportunity still exists for all who wish to do so to compete in a fair competition based on their numeracy and literacy attainment. Good luck to all those pupils.
As many parents will know there are two different tests offered by different schools (except for Victoria College, Belfast). One is marked as a script by teachers [AQE], the other is marked by a computer [GL Assessment] There has been no published information on which test is more valid and reliable but one must be. Last September PACENI highlighted a story on yet another series of errors by the Northern Ireland examinations body CCEA in which computer-based marking is used. The Education Minister must take responsibility for the failures of her regulated system that swallows £30 million per year while at the same time spending an inordinate amount of time and resources criticizing the unregulated tests.
This week Ofqual published two reports into the reasons behind mistakes which resulted in 935 out of 1024 candidates being awarded wrong scores.
PACE will be publishing an in-depth analysis of the Ofqual reports into CCEA. Please revisit the site for regular updates.
CCEA the subject organisation are not so keen to communicate the Ofqual reports.
The fact that parents have not been provided with a specification for the GL Assessment tests offered by the Post Primary Transfer Consortium is a breech of recognized International Standards on testing.
Despite an FOI request for the specification of the GL Assessment tests used by many schools last year made to the PPTC no specification has yet been provided. GL Assessment claim that a specification was agreed with PPTC.
Section 5:10 of the American Psychological Association (APA) standards address specification requirements.
decide on whether or not a school has correctly applied its admissions criteria but WILL NOT be able to question the validity of the admissions criteria themselves. * (This is because the panelists have no expertise in the matter and the DENI wish to avoid the sentinel issue of determining comparability between one test with a public specification (AQE) and one shrouded in secrecy (GL Assessment). A significant number of parents were induced into having their children sit BOTH TESTS in the belief that they were different and therefore measured different constructs. Parents should recall that it was the DENI who withdrew the regulated transfer test (11-Plus)
February 6, 2010
UPDATE for 2011. Visit the page of February 4 on the cautionary tale of exam results by computer. http://paceni.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/exam-results-a-cautionary-tale/
Today saw the delivery of results for the two very different tests used to determine entry to grammar schools. The AQE test and the GL Assessment tests. The AQE results were delivered efficiently and effectively but the GL Assessment results encountered some difficulty with attendant stress for pupils http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/breaking-news/uk-ireland/school-exam-results-delivered-late-14670533.html
AQE CEA Tests
Three tests were offered with the best two scores counting. Most applicants took all three tests. The scores range from 55 to 145 with the average score set at 100.
Scores were adjusted to take account of age. The scores will be split into five bands or quintiles. The top band are marks greater than or equal to 113, followed by 106-112, 98-105, 88-97 and, less than or equal to 87.
Within each quintile fall 20% of the scores obtained by the total number of candidates – so 20% of scores fall between 145 and 113, 20% between 112 and 106 and so on.
Only once all transfer applications have been processed and places allocated will a school be in a position to publish how the application of admissions criteria arrived at final admissions decisions.
There is not a direct relationship between each quintile and the traditional Transfer grades. The advice of PACE is that parents should use the Transfer form to put down their chosen schools in order of preference rather than trying to anticipate whether or not the score is sufficient to gain admission.
It was never the intention by AQE that transfer grades (A, B1, B2, C1, C2) would be applied as CCEA did with the regulated transfer test results. Anyone suggesting otherwise is misleading you and should be challenged as to the source of their information. Parents have been conditioned into talking about grades as if they represent some form of ranking but this is not the case. A score of 123 is not the same as 113.
Admission to a grammar school based upon strict rank order is the fairest method. However some grammar schools have adopted different criteria and it is here that parents and pupils are likely to run into difficulty and may be misled. Parents should check the admission criteria published by each of the grammar schools to which the pupil has applied for admission.
The second method claims to be similar to the old 11-plus (it is not)— taking all pupils in first two score ranges (quintiles) and then using other non-academic criteria if oversubscribed within the other bands of scores.
The third method involves schools taking a proportion of available places e.g. 100 of 150 places based on scores alone. Then a pool of pupils is created (the size of which has been decided in advance) and the school will apply other non-academic criteria to all of this group to select for their final places. (social selection) Such schools undermine the principle of equality of opportunity and the purpose of the AQE CEA test. Parents should exercise caution in applying to these schools for admission since they may attempt to rely upon information from the primary school which is unreliable. Some schools have asked parents to access this information on their behalf. PACE recommend that such requests are refused.
Schools using the third method include Inst and bangor Grammar School.
The GL Assessment Tests
The GL Assessment tests are completely different. The questions were multiple choice and marked by computer. To highlight the misinformation campaign mounted by supporters of the GL Assessment campaign (remember the Catholic grammars and others refused the opportunity to use the AQE CEA tests) it has been reported that remarking can take place. If any educationalists can suggest how the computer can remark a test paper designed to be read by a computer and issue a different result PACE would be delighted to investigate this AI device. Claiming that GL Assessment remarks are “free” underscores the attempt at deception. It will recalled that the GL Assessment tests were” free” to applicants but as yet the identity of the philanthropists paying GL Assessment’s bill has not been made public. Interestingly no political party, educationalist or investigative journalist from the local media have even investigated the matter.
Today’s Irish News makes mention of Standardised Age Scores (SAS). Simon Doyle, their education correspondent must not have access to Google or other search engine because if he did he would have immediately discovered that the correct term is Age Standardised Score (ASS). If the Irish News education correspondent does not know the difference between an ASS and the SAS, readers should not rely on his counsel on important education matters It will be of great interest to learn where GL Assessment obtained their standardised scores from. Was it from template? Where did the norms come from?
Attempts to link the results of GL Assessment tests with CCEA grades only further complicates the issue but the most complicated situation of all arises at Victoria College, Belfast where pupils are to be admitted on the basis of results from both tests. The school Board of Governors was warned about the problems by PACE but refused to accept the advice.
Victoria is the only school in Northern Ireland admitting pupils using the outcome of both AQE and GL tests. Dr Darrin Barr, the school’s deputy head, has said pupils will be admitted by considering the percentile ranking in the particular assessment sat. The AQE were queried by a school principal who was concerned whenever a percentile was given as a decimal such as .68 It will concern parents to know that numeracy problems extend to primary school principals not just the pupils. Ms Slevin the principal has rightly stayed silent.
In the case of an applicant who sat both assessments, the higher percentile rank will be used. The first pupils to be accepted will be those with a percentile rank of 60 or above.
This must be the most egregious use of an apples to oranges comparison. The two tests have no useful comparison properties.
If there are more within a band (B1 and B2 are five marks apart) than places available, other non-academic criteria will be used.
Age Standardised Scores
Parents with concerns over test result information should contact PACE at email@example.com