James Bell, Director of Professional Services at Renaissance Learning, examines the key features of the new assessment landscape in England and the features of assessments that will bring the best value to schools.
Among the raft of challenges facing schools in the 2014/15 school year is the wholesale change to the way students are to be assessed for the new national curriculum. The government has announced that it will remove national curriculum levels and introduce an expectation that schools will develop alternative forms of assessment that have a direct impact on teaching and learning.
School business managers and other senior leaders are looking to introduce valid and reliable assessments that are also cost-effective. This means not only limiting the cost of the assessment itself, but also the time taken to administer the assessment and mark students’ responses.
The most cost-effective assessments on the market are computer-adaptive. These are shorter than conventional paper-based assessments because the questions respond in difficulty to a student’s performance in the test, meaning that they only answer questions appropriate for determining their own level of attainment. Because they are cloud-based, they are marked instantly and results can be acted upon straight away.
The new assessment framework makes clear that, more than ever before, it is important for schools to assess students against the specific requirements of the national curriculum. Effective assessments will identify students’ attainment in specific skill areas linked to curriculum requirements, and with the new curriculum being rolled out from September that means that the best assessments will be built from the ground up for the new curriculum.
A key requirement of the assessment framework is that the tests students take should have a direct impact upon teaching and learning. In other words, assessments tell you what your students know but you need to use assessment data to inform your teaching of the next steps to success. There is a chasm between testing students and students learning, but the best assessments provide a bridge between the two.
They do this by incorporating learning progressions; that is, a map of the skills required in the curriculum in the order in which students typically learn them. Learning progressions provide the missing link between testing and learning, giving teachers vital information not only about the skills a student has mastered but also those they are ready to learn next.
Assessments that incorporate these features will give teachers more information in less time, providing a cost-effective way to satisfy assessment criteria and improve students’ learning as a result.
For further information about learning progressions in the new national curriculum, visit www.renlearn.co.uk/learning-progressions or contact a member of the Renaissance Learning team on 020 7184 4040.