Changes to KS3 assessment
KS3 is the stage in each child’s education covering Years 7, 8 and 9 in secondary school.
The government took a decision in 2016 to remove the KS3 assessment system used by secondary schools nationally called 'National Curriculum levels'. The government instead required schools to devise their own approach to assessment. At this time, the government also changed the assessment systems used in primary schools, so that children leaving primary school began to recieve a different measure of their attainment. This measure is still based on tests taken at the end of year 6.
Our approach to KS3 assessment
We have taken a three-pronged approach to assessment, which is summarised by the diagram below. The diagram shows a heirachy, in that the foundation is with individual teachers assessing in their classrooms, then departments who will assess groups of students before whole year groups are assessed at a school level.
At the Classroom Level, teachers use diagnostic assessment to check pupils’ understanding of the main curriculum elements. This might be through questions, short quizzes or through an observation of work as it progresses. They then respond appropriately through their teaching, with an expectation that the information is used not only for identifying gaps in pupils’ knowledge, skills and depth of understanding, but also to inform and improve on future curriculum design.
At the Department Level, each department has set out how they will periodically establish the overall progress a pupil is making using a broad range of assessment materials such as end-of-unit testing, essays, artifacts or performances. These judgements are shared with parents at three points during the year through progress judgements in student reports.
At the Whole School Level, we have set out assessment windows across the year in which pupils will sit standardised tests. So that we can have maximum reliability in our testing, these tests are not seen by subject teachers in advance, are marked 'blind' so that the marker does not know who's test paper they are marking and are sat in standard conditions in the school hall. The results are also converted into a scaled score and shared with students and parents.
What we mean by 'learning' and 'progress'
We define learning as a change in long term memory, which has both durability and flexibility. By this we mean that for something to have been learnt, students must be able to remember this the following day, two weeks later or several months later. They must also be able to apply what they have learnt to new situations and in new contexts. We have though a great deal about learning and memory, drawing on the new and emerging evidence in these areas. We think of learning as developing a schema which is a construct that links together chunks of information. A well-developed schema can support quick recall of information and support future learning by providing a structure to which to connect new learning.
The curriculum is the progression model and is rooted in what we expect our pupils to know and be able to do as they make progress through the planned curriculum. The main focus of the Whole School Level assessments is to gauge what students have remembered, and can apply, following a years or half-years worth of curriculum study.
What we mean by 'scaled scores'
We use Scaled Scores to share the outcomes of our Whole School Assessments at KS3. Most people are familiar with test outcomes being reported as a grade (like at GCSE), or with a word (such as 'emerging' or 'secure') or perhaps just as the total number of marks scored on a particular task. A scaled score translates the marks scored in a paper into a scale that is comparable. 100 is set as the avergae score for the year group and all other scores are given an equivalence between 85 and 130. A score that falls between 85 and 115 is considered to be statistically average. A score below 85 is considered to be low and a score over 115 is considered to be high.
We have decided not to use grades or words to share outcomes. Grades or words suggest that pupil performance falls into neat catagories, that 'Grade A' is distinctly different from 'Grade B' or that 'Secure' is distinctly different from 'Emerging'. Words also have their own meanings to different people and this can influence how people choose to interpret the results. In fact, pupil perfromance is continious, grades and words act as arbritrary lines placed over all of the pupil scores. Grading systems such as these can mislead us about performance. Consider the graph below:
There is little difference between the perfromance of Pupil A and Pupils B, yet awarding different grades or words woulkd suggest a significant difference. There is a big difference between the perfromance of Pupil C and Pupils B, yet awarding the same grade or word suggest that there is not. If we cjhose to just share the score achieved, this does not give any sense of how difficult a test was and can not be compared across subjects. We feel that converting to a sclaed score gives a conmparability across subjects and a sense of how a pupil performed in relation the th year group.
CATS (Cognitive Ability Tests) scores
All students arriving in Year 7 sit a range of tests called “CAT” which stands for The Cognitive Ability Tests. These are designed to give a measure of a student's reasoning (thinking) abilities. The tests are taken early in Year 7 and give useful information that we can share with teachers to best support your child’s learning. There are four pairs of tests which assess different aspects of a child’s ability. The first tests deal with “Thinking with words” in which students identify words with similar meanings. The second set of tests deal with “Thinking with numbers” in which students complete number series and look for relationships between numbers. The third set of tests is “Thinking with shapes” and students look for shapes with similar properties. The final test is “Thinking with shape and space” in which students look at folded shapes and pick out patterns. In the same way as the primary school tests, a standardised score (SAS) is given for each of the four sections and also as an overall score. We share the outcomes of these tests in the first Year 7 Report.