This short text explains the origin and logic of baseline testing and progress measures

1. What is the purpose of baseline testing?

Computing is effectively a new subject in the national curriculum in the United Kingdom, and many other European countries are transitioning from ICT to Computing. This provides a unique opportunity to find out what children know about a subject before it is formally taught and how much this changes over time as formal teaching becomes embedded in the school curriculum. If we provide a test that is based on the new National Curriculum Programmes of Study and get a representative sample of children to do it prior to Year 7, Year 8, 9 and Year 10 we will get an idea of any systematic knowledge improvements from general education prior to the start of formal teaching. We can use this to understand the way learning takes place with teaching over time both in absolute and relative terms.

Once we establish a database representative of any cohort and its progress, we can enable teachers to place their individual pupils and their school within that context. In MAPLE project context, we extend the benefits by bringing in the option of international comparisons.

2. Will this data not get distorted by use in high stakes performance measures?

The great advantage of this as a community project independent of government or government finance is that the community owns the data. Individual data for learners or schools will be available to the teacher designated as the Principal Assessor for the school. The Principal Assessor will be responsible for how that school’s data will be used. The only data that will be made publicly available will be aggregated cohort data from which no individual school can be identified. This will enable schools to use evidence from assessment objectively for local improvement referenced to a national sample of data. Cross-border data will also be available through the MAPLE project.

3. What is the assessment framework on which the test is based?

The assessment criteria are derived directly from the new KS3 POS for Computing. The questions are based on the assessment criteria used for the NAACE/TLM Level 1 certificate in Open Systems Computing. These criteria are accredited by Ofqual and deemed suitable by the DfE for their high quality qualifications category that attract league table points (up to 2016). The advantage of this is simplicity and straightforwardness placing low administrative demand on teachers but it is scalable to more detailed provision for curriculum planning and formative assessment to any preferred system. This includes the CAS progress frameworks which provide more detailed scaffolding for formative assessment. We will build further links and structure to these resources in such a way as to make them as easily accessible to teachers as possible but without forcing anyone into any particular set of bureaucratic procedures.

The test is designed to be simple to deliver but it has to differentiate performance and so there are a range of questions of different difficulties. These might appear alien to those new to computing (both teachers and pupils) but we need to start somewhere. Given the time pressures, pre-testing has not been possible and the organisations cooperating in the provision of the test are not able to say objectively how well it will work. We will not know for certain how well the test works until we get data back from trying it and we will make any future amendments to it based on the outcomes of the first implementation. We are grateful to the community for helping us in this process.

4. Is the test self-marking?

We have chosen to use a multiple choice test because it is self-marking and we can therefore make it free for schools. We don’t need external markers and the marks data can be collected and aggregated with minimal cost in terms of the test administration and more importantly in your time. We want you teaching, not wasting any more time than absolutely necessary on test administration. Instant feedback from tests will be possible and the more that take part, the more reliable the data will be.

6. Is using a test suitable for progress measures?

This is a good question. We think it is very likely that performance in these tests will correlate well with future performance in e.g. GCSEs but there will still be a lot of individual variation. The tests will give an idea but not necessarily the full picture for any individual and teacher judgment is still going to be needed. The point of doing it by a MCQ on-line test is that it is probably the least expensive, least complicated method (Teacher time as well as the cost of delivery) of getting some useful if not “all singing and dancing” results. It should be enough, at least to start with, to show OfSTED you are doing something positive on evidence based progress tracking from the outset as well as being useful for your departmental planning. We have further free support from a cloud based evidence management system that can be used for more formative assessment for those that want to do this. It is up to individual schools to decide which frameworks and formative assessment tools they want to use for more detailed day to day progress measures. The test should be compatible with any of these supplementary methods.

7. How do I sign up to participate in baseline testing?

We are conducting the tests using the TLM Awards site. The procedure is to go to http://awards.theingots.org and at the top right click the sign up link. This will produce a web form to fill in. We will collect the minimum data from you in order that we can aggregate your data and give you useful contextual feedback. Once the account details are set up we will check and approve them – this is to eliminate spam and/or bogus sign ups that could contaminate the data collected. Once your account is approved you can upload the pupils to take the test using a csv file exported from your MIS system.

If you are interested in baseline tested for your pupils, and you originate from a counry other than the United Kingdom, we suggest you contact first a MAPLE representative in your country. They will be able to provide additional information and guide you through the signup process.