MIS Systems Thread, Good AM7 Data Structure in Technical; OK, so I don't derail the thread about assignign sheets to teacher's I'll start here.
What would you say is ...
21st October 2009, 07:27 PM #1
Good AM7 Data Structure
OK, so I don't derail the thread about assignign sheets to teacher's I'll start here.
What would you say is a good way of assigning data in AM7 (Assessment Manager 7)? I too picked up on what a predecessor did in SIMS and my manager did ask to see how we can tidy things up. Unfortunately, with the possible addition of storing reports in AM7 should our homebrew reports system go wrong at a crucial time, I've ended up making more aspects!
Theres generally one batch of aspects per key stage in each subject. Results are also stored in Year or Key Stage specific result sets (i.e, Yr8-1, Yr8-2, KS5-All, etc). The aspects also cover Potential, Progress Result, Performance, Attitude, Behaviour and Residual. There's also ones I use for Marks and Grades in marksheets requested by departments and seperate to our progress checks. This is before I get into aspects generated by exam boards and the ones departments have specific to them! New ones I made though had the Key Stage stripped from the aspect to make it one aspect for all and filter it based on the result set's Year/ID-No combo.
What do you use and how would you store the data in AM7 tidily? We generally haven't used tools like performance analysis and rely on Excel heavily thanks to the homebrew system handling 2/3rds of our reporting needs, but we are still discovering it's full potential. If I can persuade SLT to move to Options and SLG by the 2010 deadline, even better. But thats a thread for another day.
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21st October 2009, 11:45 PM #2
You just need to be consistent in naming Aspects, Gradsets and Resultsets. AM7 Reports and Profiles7 Reports are also designed and named according to certain criteria. We are fortunate at my place in that I have been involved with this from Day1 of the school using SIMS - a very long time now. And I have insisted that all AM7 Management Users have followed the conventions I initially set up all those years ago ..................
I would urge you to make use of the Categories. In time you will no doubt have thousands of Aspect etc and finding the one you want can be a real pain. Narrowing the search by using Categories is invaluable.
Last edited by Sivadam; 21st October 2009 at 11:48 PM.
23rd October 2009, 09:28 AM #3
OK, a few tips based on my experiences with AM7 so far...
Always use result sets.
Always. If you have an aspect that will only have one value (maybe something for CAT score on entry), STILL tag it with a result set! It changes the way that the data is stored and retrieved and could help avoid slowing things down as much.
Never name a result set with a calendar year.
If you structure your marksheets so that results are tagged as "Year 07 Half-Term 1" or "Year 11", then you won't have to change the templates each year. If you have an aspect to store, say, total attendance percentage for a year, then call the result set "Year 10" (or similar) and have a different template for each year.
Use the categories, and use them heavily!
One aspect can be in multiple categories, so you could have an aspect categorised as "Science", "Predicted Grades", "Core Subjects", "KS3" (or more). This will make life a LOT easier! For example, you could be making a review sheet that shows predicted grades for all subjects for a Y10 student. Easy-peasy! Choose "KS4", "Predictions" in the aspect browser, and you'll get the list of what you're after.
When you have hundreds of aspects, you'll be glad you did it!
You can also use categories for templates (and therefore marksheets) and analysis grids. This will make it easier for staff to find their marksheet or cryptically-named analysis grid from the hundreds or more that there may be.
Reports also can have categories, although it's a separate set from the assessment ones. It's worth using those too, although there isn't the scope to filter by multiple categories there. But life's a lot easier if all the "Head Of Year" reports are in one place, all the "Subject Leader" ones in another, etc.
Never, ever, ever mix different types of grade in a gradeset.
(Well, almost never!) If you have a gradeset that allows people to enter GCSE grades, BTEC Cert grades, BTEC Diploma grades, Entry Levels, NC Levels, etc, all in the same place, then this will cause you grief later. There is a trade-off here, though, since you may find yourself trying to analyses overall performance for a subject that offers 3 different qualification routes. It also means that you need multiple aspects, e.g. "Science GCSE Prediction", "Science BTEC Prediction", "Science DoubleAward Prediction". Remember categories!
Work out a naming scheme, and stick to it
If you know that the predicted grade for maths GCSE is called "Maths GCSE Predicted" then it will be a lot easier to find! If you are using external programs to analyse data from SIMS, then this will be easier that way. Personally, I don't put spaces in aspect names, but that's because I tend to dump a lot of data out into Access and it's nice to know that a space is separating an aspect name from a result set name.
Use a scheme for aspects, result sets and marksheet templates. Try and make it as consistent as you can, and as simple as you can - especially for the marksheets! If staff know to look for "Tracking", "Subject Review", "Progress Leader Review" or whatever, it makes life easier for everyone. You don't want to spend all day showing people how to use SIMS!
Document everything you do.
This holds for anything MIS-related really, but there are good reasons for doing it. First off, you may change jobs/run away with the circus/get ill. If it's all documented, then it makes it possible for someone else to come along and work with what's there, understanding what you did and why. If you get stuck or need some time off, it's feasible to get in a consultant/LA support/whoever, since they have a chance of being effective.
Documenting things also means that you'll think about what you're doing, and does tend to force you to follow better practice: since it's being written down, there's a normal human instinct to try and look good! If it's not possible to document what you're doing, then you have a bad design, or no design.
In six months' (or weeks', or hours') time, will you know where to find that "quick fix thing" you knocked up?
Store all KS4 grades as a one-grade version (i.e. "C", not "CC")
You can't compare two C's (80 QCA points) with a B (46 points) and work out correctly which is the higher grade. So don't try! If you are doing something more complex like calculating A-C counts, use a formula to work things out properly. Similarly, make sure all grades that have a points equivalent (GCSE G, ELQ E2, BTEC Merit) have a value, as SIMS is not good with blank data!
In any "custom" gradesets, have a value for "This value is blank"
This one's a little more subtle, but worth doing! In our in-house gradesets (I don't edit the key stage wizard or exams organiser sets), I have a grade of "_" for "no data entered" (and a blank points value...). Doing this means that 1) you can test the value of the aspect 2) you can tell if marks haven't been entered yet. Pre-populate anything that MUST be filled in, using "Select grade for column" on the marksheet, and then you can run a report or analysis to find those grades that haven't been done yet.
Learn about and use the performance analysis stuff
This isn't bad, and can do most of what you can do in pivot tables in excel. There are some limitations, but it will satisfy a lot of needs, and has the benefit of being *live*. Also, double-clicking a cell in a chance analysis grid will show you which students make up the numbers. E.g. "That's not good, there are three students in Year 11 predicted to get a D when their target is a B" "Who are they?" - double-click and find out. Simples!
Every time you copy data out of SIMS, it becomes out of date. So try not to do it unless it is essential!
If a column in a marksheet doesn't need to be changed, make it read-only.
Really, really important! FFT D estimates? Read-only. Last year's final homework grade? Read-only.
You can set columns to read-only in a marksheet template after the event by ticking a box in the list of columns; if you're creating a new column/template, choose the "Columns for data review" type, unless you need people to be able to change the data.
Remember that you can only store one result per aspect in a result set
This is actually the reason why resultsets are good. But you have to consider the implications and be aware of them.
There's some to be going on with, anyway! Hope it's helpful somehow.
5 Thanks to MattMitchell:
ben (5th January 2010), CAM (23rd October 2009), Sylv3r (28th October 2009), Tonyoung (23rd October 2009), vikpaw (24th October 2009)
23rd October 2009, 02:19 PM #4
I think that post may be getting printed and put on the wall. Partly because I have broken a few of those rules making sheets earlier in the year.
24th October 2009, 09:39 AM #5
Categories, categories, categories!
@MattMitchell - Do you provide that in poster form or PDF format....?
@Cam - i concur with the above advice, categories are key. Next thing, naming conventions.
All my aspects are preceded by the course e.g. KS1, KS2, KS3, iGCSE, IB
then subject, then type of grade e.g. effort, attainment, comment, target, exam etc.
One thing i find a pain is if the aspect name is really long (40 allowed), the column heading gets truncated (1st 25 chars), so although having a good unique name is really useful, it's a pain making the column heading meaningful as well. So it's worth abbreviating things as best as possible. This will then be the default for templates etc. Also, leave some 2 chars spare if you will resuse columns in a template and you want it to say eff1, eff2, rather than sims adding the ~2 to a column.
Why my predecessor thought it was necessary to write 'Physical Education' i will never understand! Having the word attainment rather than att is a pain in the long term when it takes up 10 chars. Shortening it and adding a note would be better.
Think carefully about gradesets as it's not possible to reallocate aspects to new ones once things are going.
I've formulated a paragraph about naming aspects and templates 5 times now and can't get something that sounds right and covers all bases, but just consider that there are issues you get when adding, editing and manipulating aspects, reports, templates etc it can be a pain and there are ways to manage it. Just don't forget about the end user and what they see on their 'my marksheet' screen and actually within a marksheet. Once you've set up the almost perfect system your edits should be minimal and the end user needs to be happy with their tool for day to day use.
I sometimes use aspects without resultsets if i want to build up a history of data but not for analysis just for reference. otherwise i agree with Matt, resultsets are key even for one off uses. Then you can absolutely reference that piece of data and know what you are getting, and someone going in and editing an old grade doesn't affect your stats.
As with the other thread we were in, avoid user defined groups as much as possible. I occasionally use them for the odd extra class - self taught german, esl help, so they can get a report from a specific non-timetabled teacher but that's all.
Dont be afraid to stop and start things over again, and if you have the time, create your own categories and go through all your existing stuff and categorise it. It will pay dividends in the long run.
I quite often spend time creating huge marksheets with all the columns in for a key stage or particular task, where possible within the 198ish (?) column limit [i know it reduces everytime we get more additional student info columns.] It's easier to take a master template and delete columns than create them in a hurry. Then again, i do have vbscripts that will go through a template and bulk change the resultset for me, so it's easier to clone and reuse.
It's a pain, but i've been in the habit of using data entry columns and then making them read only manually so that i always have the option to edit the data myself if i want to. Dont use that type of column often.
Sorry this is a bit higgledy, i didn't have the time to do poster layout like Matt! I guess it would have helped if i'd kept notes on my processes and then i'd be able to refer to them and all the mistakes that have been made along the way...
2 Thanks to vikpaw:
CAM (27th October 2009), Sylv3r (28th October 2009)
24th October 2009, 05:23 PM #6
The other catch is that columnheading (for aspects) has to be unique across the system, despite being only 25 characters long! I get round this by changing the heading on marksheet to things like "predicted grade" or "ks4 target" so that it can be a bit more readable, but if you're editing hundreds of templates by hand it might not be all that fun...
25th October 2009, 01:41 AM #7
- Rep Power
Wow, what vbscripts are they? How did you do that?! Sounds wonderful!
Originally Posted by vikpaw
Recently I've been doing a lot of work with calculating residuals - in fact our whole assessment system now compares 'tracker' assessment data with predicted grades. It was all getting far too complicated until recently i changed all of our gradesets to A*=8/A=7/B=6 etc. for GCSE, A*=6/A=6/B=4 for AS/A2 and KS3 Level 8=8/7a=7.66/7b=7.33/7c=7 etc.
This way I have a single 'residual' aspect for each subject which is marks-decimal and this is simple a DIFFERENCE column of tracker-aspect minus prediction-aspect - this gives us, say, +1 for 'exceeds target by one grade' or -0.33 for 'misses KS3 level by one sub-level'.
The great part is that staff can just hit "summary" on any marksheet and get a mean residual for each class, and they can filter whole-subject sheets to get mean residuals for sub-cohorts (like SEN, G&T, EAL, etc.). I also use nested-if-then-else aspects to traffic-light these residual columns.
I've just developed some SIMS.net reports that suck out all this residual data and shove it in to a series of Excel pivot tables automatically to let the Heads of department, heads of year, and senior management analyse their data by ethnicity, by staff member, by class, etc.
It's all quite new, but proving very popular. But I'd definitely ditch the 'standard' gradesets that use UCAS points or similar otherwise you have huge extra hassle of taking the 'DIFFERENCE' and dividing it by 20 or 10, or whatever.
25th October 2009, 05:18 AM #8
I'll dig out the script and comment it so that it makes sense, it's quite straight forward really, all it does is simulate key strokes directly into the SIMs window, the benefit that the program works in milliseconds rather than the time it takes me to clickety-click through 100 columns.
There's some manual intervention but heck it's saved me countless hours.
I like the residual method you've sorted. At my last school we had extremely granular grade divisions 0.1 for each level, i actually made the full gradeset from -10 to +10 in .1 steps. It was a pain putting the equivalent points values in, but worked a treat as you say so that the summary button just worked as did differences. Would have been so much easier if the points value didn't have an offset and just went up from zero!
One other thing to point out with AM and gradesets is that if you can, for the GCSE or equivalent gradeset, use the '@' symbol for A*, rather than a '+' which i think is what FF uses. This way, if you export to excel and want to do calculations on the values of the grades, @ sits nicely just above A and so makes the differences etc work without any major effort. :O)
27th October 2009, 10:42 PM #9
Discovered that A* thing the hard way. Using S for Star now.
28th October 2009, 12:13 AM #10
I've changed ours from S to A*! having said that, I'm using the points value externally, or doing the analysis in SIMS. Older fft stuff used + which sorts ok with text though. S doesn't!
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