The benefits of interactive assessment

Thanks to Camilla Erskine for this article. 

What is interactive assessment?

Interactive assessments are those that are completed and automatically marked on a computer or mobile device. There are various types of interactive tests, ranging from ready-made tests – either specifically for digital use or those that have been adapted from existing paper-based tests – to tailor-made tests that are created from a bank of questions. Such customised tests can be as short or long as the teacher wishes, focusing on a particular topic or style of question, or they may be designed to assess across topics that have been taught over a period of time, for example over the last half term. Some interactive tests can also be created by children themselves – it depends on the system being used. Interactive assessments are most widely used in mathematics as the subject generally lends itself well to automatic marking, but they are also available for English and other subjects as well as to assess skills (e.g. cognitive reasoning).

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Is your end-of-year assessment data as helpful as it can be?

Thanks to Deputy Head Michael Tidd for this post.

As another year draws to a close, conversations in school revolve around new classes, end-of-year reports and sports days – and of course, final assessments. For those teaching in Year 6, much of that is taken out of our hands, and the work is done by this time of the year, but not so for the other year groups. And it’s the other year groups that we’ll be taking forward into the new academic year.

We talk a lot as a profession about the doubts raised in secondary schools about Key Stage 2 data, and even in junior schools about infant data, but we tend to be a bit more circumspect about the same challenges within our schools. So how do we make sure that our end-of-year assessment data is just as valuable as a start-of-year indicator to the new teacher?

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Assessing Special Educational Needs

Thanks to Charles Weedon, Educational psychologist and teacher, for this post

Charley really toils with some of the things we ask her to do in the classroom.  The policies about learning difficulties, the rhetoric, are often impressive….. But the reality sometimes seems more threadbare and stretched day-by-day, and the outside agencies that might be able to help us just don’t seem to be there.  Despite our best efforts, Charley is going nowhere good  –  reading still agony, written work looks like a battlefield, and while some days she’s worryingly quiet and withdrawn, others she’s off the wall and causing mayhem.

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Reflections on the 2017 SATs in KS2

Thanks to Joanna Keelan, Year 6 Teacher at Walton-le-Dale Primary School for the following article

I believe the new style SATs tests are challenging, which all of us in the profession knew when the new curriculum came out in 2014. Little did we know how challenging until SATs in 2016, however, the tests the children sat this year, gave all abilities in that year a chance to show their ability.

It does not stop the pressure the staff in Year 6 feel, when trying to prepare the children for these tests.  We want to give them the best chance of showing a true reflection of their knowledge, and in the time scale we’ve got, for some children it is impossible.  We are lucky enough in our environment, to have two strong TAs placed in year 6 full time, who take children out for interventions in more specific areas.  I truly believe this makes all the difference.

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What can we learn from the 2017 KS2 reading and grammar test?

What can we learn from the 2017 KS2 reading and grammar test?

Thanks for Shareen Mayers for the following article.

After the challenging reading paper in 2016, many teachers were pleasantly surprised by the 2017 reading paper. The questions seemed to be a little more accessible and the texts appeared to be more relevant to year 6 pupils, especially the English Channel text. Shareen Mayers shares some of her key top tips for teachers and schools!

You can view the 2017 test papers here.

Reading

1. Explicitly teach new vocabulary

Once again, the KS2 reading paper had a huge percentage of questions focussed on understanding vocabulary in context (20%). This was the same percentage as last year but some of the words were more familiar. Interestingly, the vocabulary used are all linked to the KS1 and KS2 spelling rules. For example, -ed words, -al words, -ous words and -ing words. Therefore, the spelling rules can also be used to support the pitch of vocabulary that teachers need to expose pupils to in every year group. Please see my blog on vocabulary in the KS2 reading paper. Continue reading →

Key Stage 2 National Tests 2017: Thoughts and feedback from Deputy Head Michael Tidd

Thanks to Michael Tidd for this article.

Well, that’s that all over with for another year! After all the hard work – of both teachers and students – over the past months and years, the SATs finally came and went. So what did we make of them? It certainly could have been worse!

Reading

Those of us who suffered through the traumas of the Reading test of 2016 were prepared for the worst on Monday, and in most cases were pleasantly surprised. That’s not to say that it was easy, but it did at least feel fair. In 2016 even the first text seemed designed to cause nightmares for us all, and the first few questions didn’t help. For 2017 we were treated to a tolerable, if not gripping, text about a cat in a tree and some multiple choice questions to ease us in.

My one complaint? Dropping a bit of Spanish into a reading test seems a little unfair. If you speak Spanish fluently or not at all, then maybe it’s not so bad, but how many Year 6 children up and down the country spent valuable seconds trying to translate the Spanish based on their rudimentary Key Stage 2 knowledge?

Grammar

On Tuesday morning I was praying to the spelling gods for kind words. And then they gave us ‘coarse’. But first, the grammar to get through. For the second day in a row I found myself using the word “fair”. I tend not to look too closely at what children are writing during tests, because it only upsets me, but with the grammar test, the first answer I doubted when looking over somebody’s shoulder turned out to be correct: I’d not read the question properly! Continue reading →

The benefits of standardised tests

With many thanks to James Pembroke, founder of independent school data consultancy Sig+, for sharing his take on the benefits of standardised tests.

There are a wide spectrum of tests carried out in schools from the regular, mini tests that teachers use as part of their day-to-day practice to check pupils’ understanding, to the statutory end of key stage assessments that we can’t avoid. In between those sit the optional, externally set, standardised tests from third party providers, and it’s those that we are focused on here.

Some schools are opposed to introducing any form of standardised tests fearing that they may deter pupils as well as undermine the value of teacher assessment; others use them sporadically, perhaps not making full use of the data they provide; and then there are those schools that use them every term for all year groups as the main tool for monitoring standards. Clearly there are diametrically opposed viewpoints when it comes to standardised tests with some teachers seeing them as invasive and unnecessary whilst others consider them to be a highly effective tool.

Crucially we want assessment to provide us with useful information that can be acted upon so before implementing any new form of test we need to ask ourselves one vital question: will it tell us anything we don’t already know? With any well designed standardised test, the answer is almost certainly yes – the pros outweigh the cons – and I’ve outlined the numerous benefits below. Continue reading →

What are the benefits of regularly checking children’s attainment?

Thanks to Camilla Erskine for this article.

What are the benefits of regularly checking children’s attainment?

The main purpose of checking attainment is to see how children are doing in relation to what has been taught and using the information from that process to inform teaching. Assessment plays a key role in monitoring attainment in this way and this article illustrates its use for both summative and formative purposes.

Teachers will have a good sense of how each child is performing from their day-to-day teaching, but summative assessment can provide independent evidence of attainment to school leaders, parents and the children themselves. The information from such assessment can also challenge assumptions and preconceptions and offer more nuanced information about how a child is doing, potentially highlighting ‘blind spots’ or gaps in knowledge.

How can attainment be checked?

Regular attainment checks throughout the year, for example at the end of a unit of work or on a half-termly basis, can be carried out using a range of assessment resources. These can include tests and tasks created within the school or published materials. The main advantage of using assessments developed by teachers is that they are written specifically to reflect what has been taught over the period for which attainment is being monitored. This approach, however, is time consuming and is not something that everyone feels confident in doing, or has the experience to do effectively. Continue reading →

Using SATs-style tests with all year groups to support teaching and learning

AssessmentWhat are the benefits of using SATs-style tests with all year groups?

The  national tests (or SATs) for key stage 1 and key stage 2 are rapidly approaching, which makes it timely to consider the benefits of using SATs-style tests with children in all year groups, not just those that will take the tests at the end of Year 2 and Year 6.

Benefits for children

Giving children the opportunity to become familiar with the style of national test questions and the format of the tests, including working to time limits, helps to demystify the test experience. Ultimately, this should give children confidence as they don’t need to worry about what to expect when it comes to time to take the national tests. It will also mean they have experience taking longer tests, which require more stamina than shorter, less formal assessments. The tests also give children an idea of areas where they are doing well and where they need to do more work, especially in topics that have not been taught for a while. As the national tests assess content taught over the entire key stage, revisiting prior learning at points throughout the year is particularly valuable.

Benefits for teachers

A key benefit for teachers of using SATs-style tests in all year groups is that they provide an independent way of assessing learning in relation to the national curriculum. By evaluating the results of the tests, for instance by using the online analysis which accompanies Rising Stars Optional Tests, the teacher can quickly identify areas in which children struggled. Continue reading →

A Guide to KS2 Writing Moderation in 2017

Primary girl for assessmentWe understand that consistent writing moderation is a challenge. That’s why we’ve worked with Shareen Mayers – primary teacher, English Consultant and certified KS2 Writing Moderator – to create this FREE Guide to KS2 Writing Moderation to support schools through every step of the process.

The guide includes support with:

  • best practice for writing moderation
  • preparing for a moderation visit
  • spelling and word lists
  • making judgements about children’s writing.

It also includes practical top tips and key information about writing moderation.

Download your FREE Guide to KS2 Writing Moderation here.

Are you looking for resources to support writing assessment and moderation? Take a look at free samples of our Writing Assessment Tasks. Continue reading →