7 things you need to know about standardised scores and scaled scores

Scaled scores and standardised scores – what’s the difference?

By Cerys Hadwin-Owen, Assessment Publisher

WCerys Hadwin-Owenith so many different assessment measures being used throughout primary schools, we’re often asked to clarify the difference between them. So we’ve gone back to the drawing board to provide some quick facts about two key test outcomes: scaled scores and standardised scores (because while both show performance, they aren’t quite the same thing).

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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 →

Choosing what type of test works best

Tests are widely used in schools. They include teacher-created tests either written by teachers or perhaps created by selecting questions from a ready-made online bank of questions and also a wide range of tests available from commercial suppliers. There are different types of test available too and what works best depends on why the test is being used i.e. what information the teacher wants from the assessment.

Tests for day-to-day assessment

Teachers need regular information about how their pupils are doing so that they can change their teaching to ensure it is effective. This is also a key focus of Ofsted inspections with inspectors wanting to see evidence of how schools are using assessment to improve teaching and raise attainment and to monitor the progress of all children as well as that of specific groups. For this type of assessment tests linked to specific curriculum areas are useful as they enable teachers to concentrate on particular areas. This makes it easier to identify the strengths and weaknesses that children have and the progress they are making.

This type of test can be used summatively and formatively. Teachers can use such tests at the beginning of a unit of work to assess prior learning and during topics to see how children are progressing and to identify whether further work may be needed. The diagnostic information from the tests enables teachers to make appropriate interventions and provide support and challenge as soon as possible. These tests can also be used summatively e.g. at the end of a topic, term or year to gain data that can then be used for reporting. Continue reading →

To level or not to level

For many of us, levels are an intrinsic part of the National Curriculum. We’ve come to view the notion of progression through levels from the ages of 5 to 14 as a key element of teaching and assessment. We’re also used to being held accountable for the progress made, and justifying the work we do, by identifying how the pupils we teach are now working at a higher level.

It’s a vagary of the calendar, but not one that my own children are reluctant to exploit, that I started teaching not only in the previous century but in the previous millennium (thanks guys). It’s certainly true that I taught in a pre-National Curriculum levels system; whereas there was more freedom, I’m not sure we used it well and I’m certainly not inclined to hark back to it with longing (apart from the music).

ASSESSING PROGRESS AND OUTCOMES AGAINST THE NEW NATIONAL CURRICULUM

We’re now faced with the challenge of deciding how best to assess progress and outcomes through new programmes of study. There’s no expectation to use levels, but we do need to track pupils effectively.

Which way now?

I think it’s important to start with looking at the purposes of assessment. I would suggest that there are multiple outcomes and that a good system needs to provide all of these. In essence we need to use assessment to:

  • inform next steps in teaching
  • provide meaningful feedback to pupils on what they’ve done well and how to improve
  • provide evidence for accountability
  • communicate to parents and carers how their children are doing.

Are levels (or a reworked system thereof) the answer?  What do they offer? Continue reading →