When it comes to making sure that assessment leads to action and impact in the classroom, there are certain advantages to being part of a MAT. More staff means a wider range of expertise available to help develop effective approaches to assessment, large numbers of pupils mean more reliable, meaningful data, and data can be used to pinpoint areas of excellence, enabling the sharing and development of best practice between schools. But how does a MAT leverage these advantages effectively? Let’s have a look at five ways that RS Assessments’ standardised tests, together with the reports available in MARK and MARK Plus, can help us.
Creating a shared language across geographically and contextually diverse schools
Internally designed tests are not particularly good for comparing the performance of students across different schools, or even across different tests, as one may be intrinsically harder or easier, through no fault of the people setting them. Because with RS Assessments the same tests can be used across all the schools in the MAT, and the tests are then standardised on a national sample, the results are fair, robust and comparable whatever the location or demographic makeup of each school. The scores include both a standardised score and a percentile rank, which are easily understood and easily compared. In each case we know exactly what a score means – unaffected by any unintentional bias or difference in criteria. The tests also give us performance indicators which help the MAT to forecast KS2 SATS outcomes for each school and allocate support accordingly.
Comparing in-year assessments with the national picture as well as with the other schools in the MAT
PUMA, PiRA, GAPS and the NTS Assessments enable termly testing that positions each cohort in each school within the national picture, both at subject and strand level. This allows us to see if the gaps between in-school attainment and the attainment of the national sample are similar across all schools, or if there are areas where one school is stronger than the national averages and another weaker, and where support and inter-school skill-sharing could be targeted.
Identifying underachieving groups
There’s also another kind of gap that MAT leaders can easily track using MARK and MARK Plus. By looking at the attainment gaps between different groups in each school, we can easily pinpoint hotspots of underachievement. Similarly to the action taken regarding subject and strand level differences, if a certain demographic or vulnerable group of students has strong results in one school and weaker results in another, can successful strategies be shared? Both MARK and MARK Plus offer reports that will enable quick and easy identification of problem areas.
Quick assessment and benchmarking for new schools joining the MAT
How can leadership teams quickly and reliably identify the specific areas of school improvement to focus on for new academies that have joined the Trust? If the pupils take the same test as have been taken at all the other schools, MAT leaders can immediately see where the relative strengths and weaknesses lie, and offer the new school support or challenge as appropriate. The reports are available straight away once the test is taken, enabling immediate action.
Minimum workload, maximum impact
Lastly, it’s important that we always keep an eye on assessment related workload. The tests can be taken online, and the results are provided quickly and automatically to the schools via MARK and MARK Plus in easy to analyse formats. Even if taken on paper, the online mark entry is quick and easy. All this means that MAT leaders, school leaders and teaching staff can focus their time on the actions to be taken, rather than the marking of the tests and the analysis of the data. The tests can be taken three times a year which fits in with the recommendations of the ‘Making Data Work’ report, and gives time between tests to learn from the results and make sure that the actions taken as a result are in fact leading to impact in the classroom.
Rebecca St John is a school assessment and performance data specialist and trainer passionate about helping schools and multi academy trusts use data effectively to improve outcomes.
Find out more about MARK and MARK Plus