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
February 19, 2009
The descent into chaos for the Northern Ireland education system continues to plumb new depths. Many parents and their children are feeling the effects of the bends as they are dragged recklessly from regulation to deregulation and back again towards regulation.
If parents are considering which test is offered by their school of choice then the answer may be one, the other or both!
The Parental Alliance for Choice in Education have issued warnings on the educationalists’ plans for many years but understandably most have chosen to rely upon school representatives for guidance and information at a local level.. Such loyalty has been sadly misplaced evidenced by the increasingly inconsistent incoherent and erroneous information passed on by principals, teachers and spokespeople for various “Associations”
In December 2007, the Royal Belfast Academical Institution (Inst) was challenged on their polite platitudes towards socially disadvantaged local boys. The school refused to provide detailed answers. In addition their contradictory simultaneous support for the AQE test of numeracy and literacy and the CCEA Pupil Profile was laid at the foot of Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, Chairman of Governors. Again no clear response was provided. Bloomfield is a jockey out of many stables.
Recently Ballymena Academy published admission policy and aptitude test information for prospective pupils. This contingency plan for their “aptitude testing” would be implemented only in the event of an ‘unregulated’ transfer procedure – a hint of a possible move back towards regulation. The sample test items are clearly of the verbal reasoning type although the school do not indicate who provided their “contingency test” or who the chief examiner is. The guidance suggests should an acceptable alternative procedure gain the necessary support within the Northern Ireland Assembly, Ballymena Academy will comply with that procedure, their plan will not be implemented and parents will be advised accordingly.
Perhaps the Ballymena “contingency test” is similar to that of the Catholic grammar Lumen Christi. One can only wonder at why 69 schools could not agree a testing approach based on numeracy and literacy.
The most grotesque example of incoherence comes from Victoria College, the Belfast all girls grammar school in East Belfast. In the pages of the Irish News the principal, Patricia Slevin, announced:
“ pupils will gain entry to the college on the basis of their results in either of the tests which are being provided respectively by AQE and NFER”
Perhaps Ms Slevin should make contact with the examining bodies for advice on how to equate the two tests. Did the board of governors of Victoria College actually consider the problem before offering the criteria to prospective pupils.
Why have non-denominational grammar schools eschewed tests of numeracy and literacy in favour of a discredited obsolete verbal reasoning test?
Parents are entitled to have answers. Just don’t ask Sir Ken.