The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Very occasionally, I see search referrals which led here that make my heart twitch uneasily. This is exactly one such.

Having spent three hours earlier today simply trying to disentangle numbers, I may sound a tad more terse than usual on this subject.

Not achieving anything, but wasting three precious hours attempting to translate into workable figures a horrifically tortuous mathematical dying fly effect I had found on one colleague's assessment of her GCSE coursework folders (for US readers, this translates as 20% of the most important exam in their sixteen years), and I finished the day cursing the blind stupidity of humans.

That a grown adult, a professional could make numbers up at random, and through absolute confusion or fear (I know not which) could thus demote her students' final assessments by two grades without ever once asking me, her manager, how to do the thing properly - it distresses me. In many ways.

So, here's how you do it. Members of the general public and the laity, and most particularly mathematicians, look away now.

The Idiot's Guide to Marking AQA GCSE English Coursework

The AQA seem to have specifically designed this system in order to upset and confuse people. It will singlehandedly demote hundreds of overlooked grades in larger schools across the country. [But, meh, so will Ruth Kelly, given a loose leash.]
The language part of the coursework is divided into Reading and Writing. These are known as En2 (reading) and En 3(Writing). Don't ask me why. I can't think straight without a government acronym.

Take two En2 grades - Shakespeare and Pre 1914 Prose. These are grades out of 54. Average them. Now you have the En2 grade that goes into the sub total box.

Take four En3 grades. These are ultimately two grades out of 27 (which is half of 54), or four grades, out of 18, 9, 18 and 9, respectively. These are the writing grades for Media and for Original (aka creative) Writing.
You can get away with marking them on the old schema, out of 54, then halving it: but your students get higher grades if you do it properly, out of 18 and 9, then translate the same grade out of 27.

I haven't the wit or the patience to explain the mathematical reason for this, but it's true.

The mark out of 18 is for content, and the mark out of 9 for style. So stop knocking people down because they spelt 'their' and 'they're' wrongly. This is the twenty first century.

The form asks you to record the marks out of 18, out of 9, out of 27, twice, and then again a total out of 54. This is because bureacrats hate you.

The important thing to remember is: do not mark out of 54, and do not average them. Suddenly, the En 3 (Writing) total is acquired by adding the two marks out of 27, and not averaging them.

The overall Language grade, interestingly, nay, thrillingly, is out of 108.

You get it by adding En2 to En3. No, no, no, not by averaging them. Why would you think that?

So, in summary, the process for finding the Language grade: mark out of 54, 54, average, store, discard; 18, 9, transliterate same to 27, store, discard; 18, 9, transliterate this next to 27, then look for all assimilated 27s and add; add the averaged 54 to the sum of the 27s, to get the final 108.

You've now done one third of it. Excited?

The Literature part of the coursework comes from many of the same essays, but marked again, for different things, to different level descriptors.

(Level descriptors is what the AQA say instead of 'grades'. They do this because it sounds far more intelligent to say long words than short ones. Probably.)

It consists of an average Literature mark out of 54, plus a 'QWC' mark out of 3.

Even better, the Literature marks (for pre 1914 Drama - this is AQA Longwords for simply Shakespeare: but we thought you may not be confused enough at this juncture, and wanted to help our friends in the gin industry profit from you hitting the bottle that much harder after a few more hours of this)
... Sorry, I got lost. Literature consists of Shakespeare, Pre-1914 Prose, and Modern Drama - these marks are out of 54 (hoorah!) and are averaged. By three. Yes, I know the other one was by two.

And then there's QWC, which is a mark we make up for no known reason. Try to say the next sentence in one breath. It may prevent your forehead from hitting the keyboard.

If your student is stupid, it's 1, if they're average it's 2, if they're bright, it's 3, and if they'd race to keep up with plankton, have barely ever written a word of english, it's 0.

Add the Literature and QWC grades to get the overall Literature total. No, it's not confusing to call two separate figures 'literature'. Shush. The total is out of 57.
No, really, shush. Zip it. Or we'll make you study 35 poems for the exams.

En1 means 'how noisy are they'?
Sometimes it's referred to as Speaking and Listening, although the 'listening' part is fictional.

Very noisy is a C, unless your student is a tricky little bugger who has a way with words, which makes them a B.
The fast way to do this is to take the overall Language mark and add six. Nobody will ever question you. Unless you're teaching a fantastically famous elective mute. Whcih would be a terrific coincidence.

Even then you could probably blame someone else. The parents are a popular choice - unless there's an election coming.

So, to recap:
En1 - make it up.
En 2 - big marks. average by 2.
En 3 - little marks. add up. never average.
Language - add up En 2 and 3. Ultra big marks. Like 70 or so. (But not one hundred and something. That's wrong.)
Literature - average 3 big marks.
QWC - make it up. but play safe - don't top 3/3.
Literature - add up the other literature mark and the QWC.

it's probably time to drink some gin now.

It's important that when an older, more experienced English teacher flicks casually through a coursework folder and says "no, dear, I think this is a C", you do not cry visibly until ensconced in the toilets.

You belong to a more modern efficient age. You are not allowed to decide if a bunch of essays are mostly grade C like that.
Based on what? Based on solid, unchanging standards of how good they are? Ridiculous.

Stop crying.

Here endeth the "idiot guide to AQA GCSE English marking coursework". Remember: we do it this way because it's more efficient, and not because the government hates you.
Okay, other readers, you can open your eyes again now. The nasty lack of logic is leaving.