Assessment and feedback in a school, just as in any other organisation is undertaken with a view to improvement. Assessment is at the heart of effective teaching and learning and, when it has an effect on planning and informs teaching, it raises standards. At the BOS assessment is used as the means of providing information about each individual student's experiences and achievements, which identify and guide the direction of their learning.
Formal Assessment and Teacher Assessment
There is a tendency amongst children and their parents to understand, and to value, assessments only in their formalised versions: tests and examinations figure prominently. It is for this reason that children ask, "will we be graded on this?" and that parents stress about end of year examinations ten times more than their children.
At the BOS, once a child reaches Key Stage 2 especially, we do make extensive use of these formal methods of assessment. Tests and examinations show a child, and their parents, where they stand in terms of understanding a topic or subject. Almost as importantly, they show where a child stands in terms of their ability to take tests and examinations. So long as examinations remain the key to unlocking the doors of further and higher education, taking tests will remain an important life skill.
However, in any good classroom, assessments are taking place all of the time. Questions asked and questions answered; ideas offered and ideas heard; help given and help received; attention paid and attention wandering. This is the stuff of teacher assessment. A good teacher knows their children: knows their strengths and weaknesses, knows their hopes and fears. Good teacher assessment, based on observation, listening, reading and reviewing, and with integrity at its core, will tell a parent much more about their child than a 45 minute examination. It is the difference between a film and a photograph. One is over time; the other is at a point in time. Both are valuable, but they are different.
To give a slightly different perspective on our children's progress we use a range of assessment tools developed and administered by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) at the University of Durham, England.
These computer-adaptive tests are set in the UK and marked in the UK. They are used by schools in the UK and all over the world and they allow us to compare our students to the whole cohort (approximately 500,000 students).
The results are presented to the school, and in turn to parents, as age-difference scores. They tell us how many years or months a child is ahead of their age in reading and mathematics.
All of the primary school children are assessed using this system, in an effort to establish their true potential and, in some cases, their grasp of the curriculum.