Letter to the Editor: A grading clarification

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Ofqual is currently consulting on proposals for how grade standards should be set for the new GCSEs to be introduced from 2015, and how they should be held steady over the subsequent years.

Ofqual is currently consulting on proposals for how grade standards should be set for the new GCSEs to be introduced from 2015, and how they should be held steady over the subsequent years.

We are not proposing, as Marion Gibbs suggested in her recent piece (A simple grading solution, SecEd 381, May 8, 2014), to use a norm referencing approach to awarding grades. Our consultation, which can be found on our website, looks at the benefits and disadvantages of that approach, and indeed that of criterion-referencing as well.

We conclude that neither are satisfactory. We propose instead that we should carry on with the current approach – which can be seen as using elements of both those ideas – and improve this through the introduction of a National Reference Test.

We would encourage everyone to read through the consultation and let us know their thoughts by June 30.

Marion also says she has been warned to expect a drop in exam grades this summer due to changes to the qualifications, with a return to a linear approach to GCSEs and no January exams for A levels and AS qualifications.

To be clear, our aim in regulating this summer’s awards will be to maintain grade standards, and make sure that students are not unfairly affected by the structural changes to the qualifications. That would not be right.

Our approach starts from the principle that if the cohort for a subject is similar to the cohort in 2013 in terms of ability, we would expect to see broadly similar results overall. A student who got a B last year should get a B this year.

This does not mean that the headline results will look the same – they will reflect changes in the cohort. It is also the case that different schools will have responded to the changes in different ways, so we may well see more year-on-year variation at school level than last summer.

Glenys Stacey

Chief regulator, Ofqual


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