It is our belief at Arbor that assessment does not come at the end of the learning process, but rather at the beginning and at regular points. That is, assessments should not be conceived after teaching a unit, but actually be designed as part of the planning process itself. This sense of ‘backwards planning’ enables the teacher to set out the key skills and knowledge to be assessed, and to create a unit plan that enables students to demonstrate those areas of learning. Assessment should therefore not be summative at the end of the unit, but rather frequent and cumulative, allowing students the opportunity to reflect and improve. For Arbor, this focus upon Assessment for Learning and its effect upon planning has opened up the possibilities of making the curriculum even more fit for purpose. Backwards planning gives teachers the opportunity to dispense with learning that does not move children towards the ‘big ideas’, and rids planning and teaching of unnecessary content. In practice, this means concentrating upon the skills, knowledge and understanding required by students at key points, such as for annual PTE/PTM/PTS assessments, IGCSE and A Level. We therefore envisage that it will help students ‘move beyond’ much more quickly and prepare students more rigorously for the academic challenges awaiting them.
Therefore, a focus upon planning, and the setting out of a ‘mastery model’ of what should be achieved by the end of the unit, will make assessment both simpler and more informative. It also relocates the dialogue between student and teacher, focusing instead on the substantive content rather than the abstracted language of level descriptors. It will provide a great tool for both teachers and students alike, who can reflect quickly and concisely and identify areas for improvement and further action. It is therefore also a system for accountability, for tracking progress and for improving performance.
Assessment at The Arbor School should follow excellent AfL (Assessment for Learning) practice and:
- evaluate the depth and breadth of knowledge and understanding;
- evaluate skills as they develop;
- diagnose student needs;
- monitor standards of teaching and learning;
- measure mastery objectives against learning outcomes;
- act as feedback for curriculum development;
- motivate the whole learning community through success in achievement;
- support and reflect the Arbor School Mission Statement.
Therefore, the concept behind assessment at Arbor is heavily interlinked with the qualities of backwards planning.
This shall include:
- Teachers planning each unit with the ideas of mastery in mind, that is, what learners should know and be able to do, as well as the means to move beyond to the next stage;
- Sharing this model with students before each unit;
- Planning assessments, in a range of methods, which allow the children the opportunity to demonstrate progress towards mastery;
- Using models of work across a range of grades, which can be used for self/peer assessment;
- Opportunities to pause during a unit, and close the ‘mastery gap’, where assessment has diagnosed a need to reinforce some elements of the mastery model.
Achievement of the mastery model shall essentially be reported and tracked as a ‘B’ grade, with students who move beyond receiving an ‘A’. Grades below (C-E), will then relate to students’ ability to movetowards the mastery level.
After each unit, students shall be assessed as above, with each teacher free to define the method of assessment, be it continual or summative. This grade shall then be tracked against CAT tests with intervention strategies enacted as required. Tracking meetings shall occur on a monthly basis and summative data be inputted at least every half term.
Students should be well aware, as should parents, of rubrics for mastery in any one unit. They should know why they are at a certain grade, and what they must do to improve that grade.
Each student at the school (from Year 1 upwards) will face summative testing each year, whether through external sources or internally. This shall be adapted to the needs and age range of the students. A schedule of testing can be found at the end of this policy. (To be included)
Closing the Gap
In recent years, closing the achievement gaps between higher- and lower-achieving groups of students has become the focus of many schools. While there are decades of research about classroom-level practices associated with increased student performance, few studies have examined the school-level policies and strategies that help close the achievement gaps.
In order to identify effective school-level policies and strategies, The Arbor School uses data and tracking to access how students are progressing and more importantly, identify the areas in which the students are not achieving to their fullest potential.
The management at TAS understand that steps need to be employed so teaching staff can ‘spot the gap’and then ‘close the gap’ in students’ learning.
As a school we continually;
- Use data to understand skill gaps of low-achieving students;
- Administer frequent assessments of students;
- Receive professional development on analysing low-performing student data;✓ Have leaders that encourage or lead systematic
- inquiry into the gaps;
- Discuss low-performing student achievement data with colleagues;
- Visit each other’s classrooms to observe instructional strategies frequently.
Our Senior Leadership Team (SLT) are also;
- Leaders for whom ‘closing the gap’ is a primary goal;
- Leaders who set measurable goals for closing the gaps;
- Focused on inside-school factors versus outside-school factors affecting achievement;✓ Providing teachers with frequent professional development.
The cycle begins with the teacher taking an assessment, which can take many forms. The teacher evaluates the class, looking for the strengths of the students and what they need to know next. The evaluation is formative, done for the purpose of identifying the teaching that is needed to help each student move forward.
Effective planning leads to focused teaching. Using the assessment analysis, the teacher is informed about the strengths and weaknesses of the cohort and plans for the closing the gap session. The teacher’sunderstanding of the assessment specific objectives are a guide in selecting an appropriate teaching approach.
Feedback and further instruction can be whole group, small group, or individual. A teacher will often group students with similar needs. A resource is selected that will help in achieving the objectives gained form the assessment. This will determine the approach teachers take based on the amount of support needed by the students.
The revision of teacher’s planning provides an opportunity for the teacher to reflect on past lessons andenable students to progress further in their learning. Built within this process is a new assessment opportunity for the teacher to evaluate.
At Arbor, subject and class teachers have the opportunity to collate frequent, reliable feedback on progress. We go beyond the regular testing to use diagnostic assessments that provide teachers with aclear portrait of individual students’ strengths and weaknesses and, in turn, feedback on the effectiveness of instructional strategies.
To provide our teachers with the strategies needed to enhance teaching and learning through data, school leadership offers structured opportunities to reflect, discuss, collaborate, and learn new instructional strategies. We also provide professional development, particularly classroom-based coaching, on how to tailor instruction to student needs. Arbor engages in collaborative time which enables teachers to help one another with challenges, share successes, and mutually provide the practical support needed to change practice.
Arbor aims to use data to determine what matters most and focus our efforts accordingly. Since strong reading/literacy skills are the foundation of learning, Arbor makes literacy across the school a foremost priority. As a whole school, we understand the need to focus on what can be done to close learning gaps. All Arbor staff understand the necessity to run extra classes (on week days and weekends) for the advancement of our students.