What is Assessment? Assessment is the process of gathering, recording, interpreting, using and reporting information about a child’s progress and achievement in developing knowledge, skills and attitudes (Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum, Guidelines for Schools; NCCA, 2007, p.7). Assessment monitors and evaluates the pupil’s learning. Self-assessment through reflection is used by teachers to monitor teaching and learning in their classrooms and practice (effective or not) shared with colleagues. Assessment of Learning (AoL) and Assessment For Learning (AfL) are an integral part of the teaching and learning process. AoL is summative assessment typically done at the end of an instructional unit. Formative assessment is used to feedback to the teaching/learning process and looks forward, informing what will be done next. Teachers in Kyle observe and discuss weekly with colleagues both work in progress and completed work. While teacher reflection on practice and learning is on-going .
Why assess learning and teaching?
Our reasons for assessment are as follows:
· To inform teachers’ setting of learning targets and activities for individual pupils, groups and the whole class
· To inform the school improvement plan and to revise and update whole school improvement targets.
· To assist planning, evaluate and modify teaching strategies based on the outcomes of assessment
· To inform class groupings and differentiation of work
· To identify pupils with learning difficulties
· To use assessment outcomes to assist and improve the effectiveness of the teaching and learning programmes used in Kyle N.S.
· To effectively and sensitively use assessment outcomes to assist pupils to reflect on their own learning
· To be able to provide accurate information about pupil’s progress to relevant parties particularly parents
· To evaluate pupil achievement in curriculum areas in comparison with national norms
In Kyle N.S. the gathering of information on pupils’ learning is timely and happens at regular intervals.
How do we assess learning and teaching?
A broad range of assessment approaches/strategies/tools are used in Kyle N.S. in all subjects, to cater for a wide spectrum of needs among the pupils taking into account their individual learning styles and needs. The pupils may be assessed with their class or individually out of the classroom, whichever is deemed the most appropriate for the pupil, at the time. Alternative assessment tools will be designed altered or sourced by the Special Education Needs (SEN) and class teachers should the assessments be deemed inappropriate to the pupil’s level of ability.
Teachers use many different tools to assess children’s learning and teaching effectiveness in all subjects including:
- Teacher observation
- Teacher reflection
- Teacher-designed tasks
- Work samples
- Concept mapping
- Curriculum Profiles
- Portfolio and project assessment
- Conferencing: teacher/pupil, teacher/teacher, teacher/parent
- Diagnostic and Standardised Tests
- Tracking of reading material
To download a copy of the modes of assessment used by teachers at each class level click the following:
1. Teacher observation and teacher reflection:
Teachers gave their detailed short-term plans to the principal at the end of every month, with work covered during the month ticked.
2. Teacher designed tests/surveys
Data from these tests/surveys are used by teachers to inform teaching and learning, adapting teaching methods/strategies, deciding where to focus their attention in their teaching and for sharing good practice and seeking advice with and from colleagues when required.
In October 2014 Google forms was used to upload a survey for staff on teaching effectiveness in numeracy. Staff completed the survey on-line and an analysis of the findings was presented at a staff meeting (end of November). Strengths/Opportunities/ Aspirations and Results (SOAR) were discussed using this data and priorities identified for attention 2014 – 2015.
Surveys are also used to give parents ‘a voice’ in the work of the school. Parents were surveyed on their attitudes towards Gaeilge and as a result of this feedback night classes were arranged for parents and children together (2011 – 2012). Surveys were also sent to parents on their children’s attitudes towards literacy and numeracy. Data from these surveys was analysed by Seefin International. Two areas identified for attention included improving communication with parents and a need for lessons on Mathematics for parents. Subsequently more regular newsletters (2-3 a term instead of one termly) are being sent home to parents and Kate Crehan (class teacher) delivered classes in mathematics to parents. A survey was also sent to parents on the use of IT for learning mathematics at home. Subsequently Sandra Crean introduced Manga High to 2nd – 6th classes in the school and this programme continues to be used in school and at home. A ‘Scratch’ club was set up in the final term of 2013-2014. Children who attended had to bring a parent with them and the course was delivered by Padraig Gubbins (parent) and spearheaded by Sandra Crean (class teacher).
1st – 6th Class, weekly, on Fridays
1st -6th classes mathematics tests
Teachers administer check-up assessments based on objectives covered in the textbooks throughout the year.
Teachers 3rd-6th classes use surveys to gather information on the children’s learning.
5. Self-assessment and Self-assessment Learning folders (SALF folders) New Initiative
It is very important that children are involved in assessing their learning through self-assessment and/or peer assessment. SALF folders encourage children to choose their best work and see with help from teachers and peers where they need to improve. Children in Scoil Mhuire are taught from junior infants how to assess a fellow pupil’s work sensitively and constructively. Such skills are important in life. All children have a SALF folder.
6. Conferencing: teacher/pupil, teacher/teacher, teacher/parent communication
Pupils work, including non-written work and homework is regularly monitored and corrected. Pupils are provided with constructive feedback on their learning. Teaching is amended in the light of feedback. Teachers check pupil understanding during and at the end of lessons. Pupils are provided with meaningful feedback on their work to improve their Learning. Station teaching facilitates teacher/pupil conferencing.
Teachers teaching in Kyle plan together, share good practice and advise each other. Information regarding pupil progress in the curriculum areas is shared with relevant staff members as necessary
A written report giving a profile of pupil achievement in each curriculum area in qualitative and quantitative terms that are easily understood and meaningful are sent home to parents at the end of the school year. The staff decided and agreed to use a template from the NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment). Parents are informed of the standardised test score in literacy and numeracy on the end of year report card. The report is sent home two weeks before the end of the school year to facilitate parents who wish to respond to the report and meet the class teacher before the end of June.
7. Standardised tests and diagnostic tests
The DES require all schools to assess children using standardised tests normed on the Irish population at the end of 2nd, 4th and 6th classes.
To assess literacy, a decision was made to use the Drumcondra test in annually from 1st – 6th Classes
To assess numeracy, The SIGMA T is used. It is administered in May/June to all pupils from 1st-6th Classes.
The standardised tests are administered to all classes from 1st-6th Class in mid-May. They may be used in order to identify pupils for learning support the following year. MIST is used in Senior Infants
YARK test: (York Assessment of Reading Comprehension) is used in Senior Infants. The MIST (Middle Infant Screening Test) was used in Scoil Mhuire up until 2013. In June 2014 a decision was made by the special needs team after exploring a number of assessments to use YARK for senior infants. A large majority of children scored well in MIST and teachers felt the test failed to identify the broad range of reading ability within the senior infant group. Having used the YARK test it was noted that is showed more clearly and accurately the range of ability in a class and a decision was made to continue using this test with Senior Infants from 2014.
Pupils who are absent on the day standardised tests are administered: If pupils are absent on the day of testing the test will be administered to them by a SEN teacher at a later date.
How does the data from standardised tests inform teaching and learning?
At whole school level the scores are used to inform teachers on how the children are doing in literacy and numeracy compared to their peers nationally.
The child’s standardised test scores are recorded on the front page of their report card stored on file in individual classrooms. Teachers compare standardised test scores from one year to the next to identify whether or not a child is improving or dis-improving. Concerns are discussed with the SEN team and interventions made where applicable or necessary.
When children score below the 12th percentile a diagnostic test may be used to explore where his/her difficulties lie. Children, who at the end of Senior Infants achieve a reading age of less than 6 years, are prioritised for Learning Support.
Teachers at different class levels use data from the standardised tests to identify strands/strand units in the curriculum where the children are scoring well/poorly and adapt their planning accordingly.
Individual educational programmes (IEPs) and group educational programmes
Children allocated resource hours have specific learning targets set for them. Attainment of these targets and decisions on what will be done next are recorded in individual IEPs. Learning support teachers use group educational programmes and assess the learning outcomes of the children as a group. Results of assessments are shared with relevant teachers/ personnel.
Copies of individual end-of-year reports and standardised assessments are kept in the school for nine years after the pupil leaves 6thclass. Results of class standardised assessments are kept on file in the principal’s office and used by staff to evaluate learning and compare results from one year to the next. Teachers’ and school assessment records are useful and easy to interpret. Parents are entitled to their child’s results. Results are given to them at the parent/teacher meeting in November. However, parents are welcome to arrange a meeting with teachers to discuss assessment outcomes at other times during the year and arrangements are made for this in consultation with the principal. These meetings are arranged generally outside school hours. If this is not possible, the principal will arrange supervision of classes to facilitate such a meeting.
STORAGE OF ASSESSMENTS
A file on each child is stored in the office. Teachers on the Special Needs team also hold relevant documentation on each child. All such information is treated as confidential. However, parents may view any information held on their child by making an appointment with the class teacher and/or learning support/resource/language support teacher. Two copies only of a child’s psychological/ occupational therapy/speech and language reports etc. are kept in the school: one in the child’s individual file in the office and one in the filing cabinet accessed by the Special Needs team. No arrangement is made to assess a child by the school, without parent/s’ consent. Teachers treat all such information as confidential and with respect.