No evidence of “gaming” in Reception Baseline trial

From 2016, when children start school in England they will be given an initial assessment, called the Reception Baseline assessment. This will be used as the starting point from which their progress through school will be measured. The Department for Education (DfE) has published new research, including a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT), which aimed to investigate schools’ behaviour changes in response to this accountability reform.

The RCT was carried out in autumn 2014, and explored whether schools’ perceptions of the purpose of the assessment led to differences in pupils’ early attainment, and in particular if there was any evidence of “gaming”. There might be a concern that schools would lower pupils’ results to show greater progress later on.

A sample of 153 schools (5,368 eligible pupils) were randomly allocated into two groups, with one group told that the assessment would be used for accountability purposes (the Accountability Group) and the other told it would only be used as a teaching and learning aid (the Teaching and Learning Group).

In the two treatment groups, the mean score within the Accountability Group was 2.7 marks (4.2%) less than those within the Teaching and Learning Group, and this reduction was seen in the two subject areas making up the test – maths and reading. However, once the correlation between pupils within schools was taken into account, the result was no longer statistically significant.

The report concludes that the trial found no strong evidence that framing the Reception Baseline assessment as an accountability measure as opposed to a teaching and learning aid resulted in a reduction in test results.

Source: Reception Baseline Research: Results of a Randomised Controlled Trial. Research Brief (2015), Department for Education.

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