Used properly, data makes a huge difference in meeting the needs of every student and can be a powerful ally in stimulating positive change and improvement. Forget crystal balls and silver bullets – the proper collection and interpretation of data really can lead to better decisions. It helps you to learn what’s working and what’s not; it can assist in determining professional development needs, intervention requirements and resource allocation; and it focuses discussions about teaching and learning, guides teaching strategies and monitors progress.
Now that National Curriculum levels have been removed you’ll need something that can help benchmark your students nationally and help you get an objective picture of attainment. You will be looking for tests that are easy to administer, don’t eat away at your precious time, and provide rich, indepth information and age related scores. GL Assessement has produced a series of standardised assessments for English, maths and science that are well worth exploring.
To the tests
I took a closer look at the online Progress Test in English, which is in two parts (it’s available in paper format too). Test One is made up of spelling, grammar and punctuation, testing students’ technical skills, whilst Test Two concentrates on reading comprehension using age-appropriate fiction and information texts. The order in which the tests are taken is fixed; they are untimed and automatically marked upon completion. From a user point of point, they are clear and without distraction, making use of a range of responses from tick boxes, drag and drop and highlighting, to writing words and phrases. The reading comprehension text questions allow students to revisit the texts at the click of a button so they don’t have to worry about remembering everything they have read. I sat the test as a student would and found them easy to use from a navigation point of view and it was good to be able to engage with a range of different response styles.
Although adaptations can be made to the look of the pages (such as font size and background colour), GL Assessment advises that this should happen in exceptional circumstances only, as they are standardised tests. In my view, adaptations are central to cater for the needs of some students, particularly dyslexic learners, and I don’t think accuracy of data would be lost by changing the look and layout. Similarly, as standardised tests there is only one voice option – but I think having the option of another voice might suit some learners better than others. Overall though, the tests are age appropriate, enjoyable, engaging and pressure-free. They also include brand new content, which means they reflect the updated curriculum.
These are tests that offer a wealth of feedback so you can maximise student learning potential, including a new suite of comprehensive reports tailored to different audiences – such as group reports for teachers (PDF and Excel), individual student reports (PDF) and reports for parents (PDF) – which are excellent. Not only are they visually authoritative, they are accessible, extremely detailed and the analysis is superb as it drills down really deep, with narrative explanations that cover standard age scores, stanines, percentile ranks and so on.
For parents, the reports are especially helpful, clearly identifying strengths and areas for development in a succinct way without the use of complicated assessment terminology, so for home-school communication they really do add value.
For teachers, meanwhile, as administrators of the data, they go a long way in helping to track pupil progress, building a picture of attainment across the school. They also act as an additional filter to spot children’s specific needs, allowing you to address any gaps in learning or identify where you need to extend the level of challenge. Obviously with data analysis this good you can provide evidence for your pupil premium/ pupil deprivation grant spend and compare results from a range of groups of pupils such as those with EAL. All this valuable data can easily be integrated into your school’s Management Information System.
The Progress Test Series collects, organises, summarises, analyses and synthesises data into information that can be used and shared across a range of stakeholders. And whilst the analysis may reveal gaps, it will also show your strengths, enabling you to identify and share best practice, inform departmental planning and feed into your school improvement plan. Ultimately, used year by year the Progress Test Series from GL Assessment will make you a savvy and well-informed educator able to make smart decisions; all for just £4.95 per student. It makes sense to use quality tests like these to generate that quality data you need knowing that it will be reliable and consistent across the school, and enable you to set realistic and motivational targets. Find out more by calling 0330 123 5375, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.