Eva Baker chairs the panel of international experts that revealed today that the astonishing improvement in A-level standards over the past two decades was probably genuine. But the panel said watchdogs should improve the way they monitor standards.
Many academics and employers had questioned whether it was real improvement or grade inflation that pushed the pass rate last year to 89.9 per cent. Some 18.6 per cent of entries gained the top grades.
Professor Baker was appointed by the government's qualifications watchdog, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, to investigate whether the "gold standard" of A level had been tarnished. She was asked to review the quality assurance and quality-control arrangements for maintaining A-level standards. She examined the authority's processes for monitoring the standards, as well as the practices of the exam bodies in operating the A-level system, against best international standards. She found them "fit for purpose".
Members of her panel included Sir Stewart Sutherland, vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, and Barry McGaw, deputy director for education at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Professor Baker is professor of psychological studies in education at the University of California, Los Angeles and co-director of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing. She serves as chair of the National Research Council's Board on Testing and Assessment.
In the United States, Professor Baker has given evidence to the House of Representatives committee on education and the workforce and briefed Congress on testing and the way it is used in the pursuit of educational excellence.
Her research interests include educational assessment, testing and evaluation policy, and the evaluation of high technology in education and training.