A few years ago a man won the Spanish national lottery with a ticket that ended in the number 48. Proud of his ‘accomplishment’ he revealed the theory that bought him the riches. “I dreamed of the number 7 for seven straight nights,” he said, “and 7 times 7 is 48.”
Leonard Mlodinow – The Drunkard’s Walk – How Randomness Rules Our Lives
I’m an intelligent man. I get the odd question right on University Challenge. I read widely. I can hold my own in a late night pub conversation, under the influence, on a variety of topics…
But I CAN NOT for the life of me understand the Ofsted Data Dashboard. It is utter garbage. It is an embarrassment. I imagine that during the Ofsted/DFE Christmas party the Data Dashboard Team hide away in the ‘disco ball free’ corners awkwardly moving to ‘Last Christmas’ eyes furtive, terrified they are going to run into the Raise on Line Posse and have to endure an evening of ‘banter’, ‘wedgies’ and ‘humiliation’.
Ofsted is such a powerful brand. Schools pray at its Altar, willingly or forced, and the weight of its institution is almost unequivocal of reproach. Therefore, as a parent, the Ofsted branded Dashboard carries the ‘Wisdom of Ofsted’ to your very laptop. But, more importantly, I have worked with and coached MANY head teachers over the years. The impact that Ofsted have upon them is immense and cannot be ignored – from ‘Utter Joy to Suicide’. I have heard it all. “I know Mr Wilshaw! We should ‘Man/Woman UP’ But when your very soul and effort is about getting this complex world of headship right the least you can expect is accuracy and context?” So imagine my horror:
Our KS1 Results according to Raise on Line is SIG+ in Reading, Writing and Mathematics combined!
Cause for celebration? Pretty impressive, eh?
According to my Dashboard we are in the 3rd Quintile for reading, the second for writing and the 3rd for Mathematics? Quintile’s are small furry ‘beings’ first seen in an episode of The Twilight Zone – probably… I do know that Quartilla is a variant of Quintile and as a name it means ‘Forth born, born in the forth month’ Therefore, I am sure Quintile is shrouded in WITCHCRAFT! For a better and more detailed understanding of Quintiles these blogs are excellent http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2013/03/the-ofsted-school-data-dashboard-powerful-new-tool-or-dangerous-blunt-instrument/ or http://icingonthecakeblog.weebly.com/blog/the-ridiculousness-of-the-ofsted-schools-data-dashboard )
That means that up to 60% of schools nationally have better KS1 results than these?
92% L2+ in Reading
92% L2+ in Writing
94% L2+ in mathematics
Ok, I can handle this… But what this ‘stupid’ little dashboard ignores is a whole world of context. I run a Special School of which 5 amazing children were part of the Y2 Cohort (Bused in to my school from ALL over Somerset – all ranging from P3 to P5 with a range of complex needs). There were 6 Y6 children also in this data for the disaster that was my KS2 Data Dashboard (Bottom Quintiles!?!). If I take these children out things improve dramatically (Because the margins are SO tight) – In KS1 I would go up to 100% in some areas. So in KS1 those 5 children are the difference between the Highest Quintile to the 3rd? (Is that Outstanding to RI?) These margins are ridiculous and so damaging. God help a small school! Also, in that KS1 Data over 90% Got a 2B! and in Reading over 50% got a 3C!!! Is this average?
And all this before we even begin to test the validity of test statistics as an indicator of any reliance upon a schools effectiveness. A lot happens in schools – success and failure: what does this even mean? How much is the success down to chance? Just random factors that delivered the results that far outweigh any other analysis? Is this set of results due to leadership skill, preparedness, working harder than other schools – or did they strike it lucky? Therefore, do the lucky ones get promoted to outstanding? If this was so, all those National Leaders are just headteachers who lucked out (Me included?).It’s a sobering thought. I am not saying that data is not an important part of what we do. But I am saying that we put FAR TOO much belief into it’s accuracy, validity and influence.
You see Ofsted carry colossal weight and influence, it is trying to keep up with the changes but is it just too institutionalised and cumbersome to be trusted to do this anymore? Is being right 90% of the time good enough when the implications for being wrong are as serious as they have become for education in this country? (Promisingly through @HartfordSean, and @mcladingbowl before him, have been more engaged and understanding than in the past).
So, my final thoughts:
The Data Dashboard provides a SNAPSHOT of performance in a school – a snapshot taken by a blind and feeble elephant with a perchance for a few too many fermented fruit trees.
The Dashboard can be used by governors and by members of the public to check performance –“Oh look at that slick OFSTED dash board. Nice simple squares in boxes. Clean graphics! I can understand that! None of that crazy mathematical ‘be-jiggery’ of Raise. OH! We are not at the TOP!!!”
The Dashboard is a classic example of taking something that is very complex and making it simple… and UTTERLY failing.
The Data Dashboard complements the Ofsted inspection report by providing a summary of results data over time and comparisons to other schools – Don’t get me wrong. I joined my school in September. This data is not, technically speaking, my fault. In fact I am in a brilliant position to benefit as the head that turns around another school! “Hurrah for OPH!” But it is WRONG. If I was inspecting my school on the Dashboard alone I would be thinking ‘Specially Measured’ (The KS2 data is blood splattered over the Dashboard in cold brutal squares). This is wrong… I do not care what we are told – inspection teams come in based on the data they have. Their initial interaction with you is heavily weighted by this data. There is no doubt mine will confuse some… But the chances of getting it wrong? It keeps me awake at night because I have seen what getting it wrong does.
The Ofsted Data Dashboard is the ‘Poor persons’ Raise on Line. It is a statistical chameleon in the wrong tree. I believe that Ofsted need to face up to the fact that it does more damage than good. Saying that, when I asked parents on the gates this week if they had looked at it… Not ONE said they had.
My final scribbling in my note book as I lay awake last night was:
How much money is spent each year creating this monstrosity?