In our previous newsletter we discussed early research findings which indicated that curriculum coverage was not necessary directly related to improvement in assessment outcomes.
A review of teachers’ reactions to the CAPS documents and the detailed Curriculum Trackers that are currently being distributed by large scale interventions suggest that there is consensus that there is too much work to cover, too much time spent on assessment and too little time for remediation or closure of gaps in learners’ knowledge. This may be partly because some teachers fail to understand the intention of a differentiated curriculum and thus attempt to cover everything with all learners.
So, what should we be measuring if we want to know more about the state of learner achievement in primary schools? Curriculum coverage on its own appears not to be enough and internal school assessments are inconsistent at best, so there is work to be done to find other reliable ways to make sense of why our learners are not performing as we would want, and what we need to do about it.
Some of the large scale intervention such as the NECT and the PMDP also track workbook exercises and the extent to which these reflect what is being covered in the curriculum – this acts as a quality of teaching measure and indicates the depth to which topics are covered.
The challenge is to build workbook tracking into meaningful measure – this might possibly be the extent to which workbooks meet a defined standard based on a random selection on ‘x’ occasions per year.
Attendance by teachers and pupils also needs to be brought into the equation. Or do they? Curriculum coverage is a good proxy for teacher attendance i.e. if a teacher is consistently absent this will reflect in the extent to which they cover the curriculum. If pupils are consistently absent this will reflect in their workbooks. So perhaps not.
So if curriculum coverage x workbook standard achievement indicate whether results will improve, will it be possible to build an algorithm which indicates that if this level of curriculum coverage with this level of workbook standards is achieved, then we will get this level of learner outcome. Or will a range of external factors such as the school environment, management practices etc. also need to be factored in to provide some level of reliability?
We will pick up on this in a subsequent newsletter but would really like to hear your views on the issue.