Should teachers publish the test scores of their classes?

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I am currently being forced to read shedloads of papers about “Total Quality Management” – both in engineering and in education. Much of it is soporific management speak. But every now and then something catches my eye.

Here’s today’s:

Having charts showing defect rates posted on the shop significantly predicted company improvement

Among a bunch of ideas about collaboration, and decision-making, and organizational value, it seems that something as simple as highlighting the current defect rate on an assembly line was significantly associated with an improvement in company effectiveness, income and customer satisfaction.

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This caught my eye because my blog earlier this week on marking student work described how I stick students’ marks on the front of their folders. I also kept a “class average” score on the wall (well, it was on the front of the folder crate for each class) and that it was updated as we went throughout the year. I did this to keep us all focused on our aim of constant (even if slow) improvement.

Today, when I saw the article though, I wondered if we should also expect the same for teachers?

If I kept myself accountable to the students through our class-average wall, should teachers be expected to be airing their class results more often? Should they be published centrally? Should we be defending them regularly? I know that many schools already do this. Teachers are expected to hand in data, and explain where they are up to, and why. But I wondered how widespread it is? And whether it should be even more public? Shared across the whole staff? Shared with parents?

Given some of the management I have seen, this can be a panic-inducing thought. What if SLT try and stitch me up? Am I going to lose my job? Or what of the things we can’t control: “it wasn’t my fault, they put the six naughtiest year 10s in my class and gave me a triple lesson – how was I supposed to cope?”

Yet on the other hand I think that may be the very act of those conversations, about the fears that we have, about the fact that we have been fitted up with a triple lesson of challenging kids, is vital. Really, as professionals, we should expect someone to call us in on occasion and account for where we are at with our students’ progress. It only works if we have management who are willing to help, of course. If I say that I am struggling with the six Year 10s I need to know that someone is going to do something – move the students, send in cavalry, rejig the timetable – if all I get is sympathy and wide-eyes then we might as well not bother. But, if the information was there for everyone to see, everyone to defend, and everyone to ask for help this feels like it would be a good thing. After all, it would mean that a teacher could say “I told you months ago I was struggling with this class, in fact I published it on my wall!”

Still, I can also see reasons why it wouldn’t be useful (I suspect teacher stress would be the first people would suggest). Hence, DON’T WORRY, I’m not advocating for this as a national policy. More I am batting around the idea of asking teachers to be more open about information. To simply consider putting your class’s current levels/scores somewhere bold and loud, and keeping it up there as progress happens (or doesn’t). If we think transparency in politicians is helpful, surely we must also think it’s important for us to be truthful and hold ourselves accountable too?

But like I say…just a thought….



Categories: Teaching

9 replies

  1. Hi Laura,
    I’d agree with a culture of openness in all areas; can be very developmental. Our parents here in Hong Kong are very grade driven and regularly want a full mark breakdown. I explain that without context the marks themselves don’t really tell you anything. So maybe being loud and bold with the context and with progress in however you frame ‘learning’?

  2. This just taps on the window of the extensive fear within teaching about being open about what we do. The days of shutting the classroom door in September, and keeping it closed until July, are long gone. But in most schools and colleges that door has been prised rather than flung open, by an observer with a clipboard, grading criteria, and often an agenda. In response we have learned to anticipate them coming by dumping what we would have taught and conjuring up a ‘show lesson’, complete with ostentatious differentiation and regular and blatant evidence of progress by every pupil. Had we done the flinging ourselves, the prising wouldn’t have been needed, and maybe we would be able to get on with properly helping each other to be better teachers. Perhaps we still can.

  3. All marks, grades, subs, resubs, assessments, reassessments, awards, attendance, pastoral items, correspondence, comments, profiles, for all students and all subjects, and all topics are loaded in realtime to the Net and each and every parent or caregiver can see their own students result in secure password protected web pages at any time and over all years – but just for their own student. Comparison data for class, subject, cohort, school decile and national data is available by email or by looking it up online – aggregated data. all schools data is sorted uploaded and when cells sizes assure anonymity loaded to the net. At learning conversations held several times a year this data is studied by parents caregivers students teachers, tutors and denas and new goals pathways and options are decided on and enacted. Its very very open transparent and live here. students work is loaded to google and their eportfolios and available for peer teacher parent and academic management feedback – all lessons labs and exhibitions, performances and expeditions are videoed still imaged and loaded to net. I also publish on the wall and in excel and on google spreadsheets but thats because i am old fashioned cheers and thanks for interesting ideas tony

  4. I believe it is essential to have a culture of openness in all things within a school. While testing creates anxiety for everyone involves (and often times does more harm than good), openness can, perhaps, be a method of counteracting some of the anxiety. In the charter school network I once worked in student scores were posted outside the classroom twice a day at the height of exam prep so everyone (students, staff, administrators) could monitor each other’s development and support each other. While this seems a tad excessive (and possibly a tad destructive), within this particular scenario is became an important aspect of culture building and a foundational unpinning of wider plans to foster team work. I guess when I think about openness, I think about the results of a lack of openness (educators working in isolation, developing deficient mindsets for their students and themselves, demotivation, etc.). All these things are never good and counterproductive to the ultimate goal.

  5. I love a touch of heresy, such as you’ve introduced here. I think the idea makes sense in many ways – looking at the differences between classes and teachers should/could lead to some very interesting and useful questions about group composition, support for teachers, different teaching methods and so on. It should be possible for a teacher to look at their colleagues’ scores and use that as a chance to seek to improve their own work. It also offers the potential for a useful discussion between teachers and students about their scores – why are they as they are? What more can the teacher do and what more do the students need to do?

    My reservation, like Citizenshaw’s, is that I think the scores we collect and report on are limited and limiting. Certainly, when using levels in my old school, they obscured more than they revealed about students’ progress and understanding. So I’d be cautious about giving them more airtime than they deserve.

    As I said to you previously, I’m looking forward to more ideas from TQM for teachers – and thanks for reading all the papers on our behalf!

  6. Unfortunately, only if the data is truly meaningful does it make any sense at all even to consider sharing it in this way, in my opinion. Even then, all the consequences of sharing it need to be carefully considered. Context is everything. For example, if individual teachers want to share class averages with their classes, then that could be very useful all round, but the assumption must be that the teacher knows what they are doing it for, and are clear about the downsides, and make that choice.

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