Phonics reading check words put online and marks ‘inflated by teachers’

Teachers inflated children’s marks in a  new reading test and allowed half the questions to leak on to Twitter and parenting websites, an official report revealed yesterday. Nineteen of the 40 words used in the test were divulged on web forums popular with parents and teachers and even a national radio broadcast mid-way through the week-long testing period, according to exams watchdog Ofqual. This is from the Daily Mail…

The ‘phonics reading check’ – taken for the first time this June by nearly 600,000 six-year-olds – was further compromised by ‘skewed’ and unreliable marking aimed at pushing as many pupils as  possible over the pass mark of 32 out of 40.

Nearly five times as many pupils achieved  32 marks as gained 31, the report said, and the marks in the test were therefore ‘significantly skewed’.

Teachers were issued with the pass mark before they administered the test and Ofqual found this knowledge ‘strongly influenced’ marking.The Department for Education urged teachers to ‘take professional responsibility for the accurate marking of the test so that the right children can be helped’.

The test involves checking how well pupils use the traditional ‘phonics’ method of reading, where children learn the letter sounds of English and how to blend them.

As well as reading 20 real words, youngsters are expected to say 20 made-up words, such as ‘pib’, ‘queep’ and ‘groiks’. The test was introduced by the Coalition in an attempt to identify pupils at risk of falling behind in reading at an early stage so they could be given extra support.

This year 40 per cent – nearly 237,000 children – fell below the pass mark.

The report published by Ofqual criticised the way the test had been run.

Schools are supposed to  keep the questions secret since only one version of the test  is used on each day of the testing week.

But the report identified ‘a number of breaches of the check’s security in the course of the week’.

‘These included check items being quoted in a national radio broadcast and referred to in forums and websites  frequented by teachers and parents,’ it said. A few also appeared on Twitter posts.

‘In all, 19 of the 40 items had appeared in a variety of open locations by the end of  the scheduled check week on 22nd June.’

Ofqual said the national testing agency had ensured the leaked words were taken  down from websites as quickly as possible.

It also said it did not believe the breaches were ‘malicious’ and said that there was ‘negligible’ likelihood of the leaks affecting children’s chances in the test.

The disclosure follows claims from Ofqual that ‘over- marking’ by teachers of coursework assignments was a major cause of the GCSE English grading fiasco.

More at:  Reading test words put online and marks ‘inflated by teachers’

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