Beijing City International School is a not-for-profit private school that is permitted to enrol Chinese national students alongside students from around the world. The school has over 1,000 students from toddlers to Grade 12, representing over 31 nationalities.
The school is an International Baccalaureate World School teaching the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Diploma Programme (DP), and incorporates the Chinese national curriculum into its teaching.
In 2016, the school initiated a five-year programme of student assessment to inform and improve teaching and learning in the school.
Tanya Farrol, the Middle School Learning Support teacher, explains: “The collection of student data had historically been inconsistent due to school leadership changes. The new leadership team wanted to set in place a structured and consistent programme that would address both learning and well-being needs, and provide the school with data on trends over time.”
Their objectives were to:
“The reason why we chose the Cognitive Abilities Test: Fourth Edition® (CAT4), Pupil Attitudes to Self and School® (PASS), Progress Test in Maths® (PTM) and New Group Reading Test® (NGRT),” says Tanya, “is because they gave us student information that is attitudinal (PASS), based on attainment (PTM, NGRT) and focuses on academic potential (CAT4). They provide a holistic picture of each student, and the individual assessments are designed to work effectively together.”
During the course of the first term in the academic year, students from Grades 6–10 sit the assessments – NGRT in August, PTM in September, CAT4 in October and PASS in November. The reports are available immediately after each round of testing so that teachers can carry out their own analysis.
The Learning Support Team carry out a triangulation exercise in January and produce consolidated data and trends reports for each student.
The data is reviewed by key departments:
“With our support teams and leadership all looking at the data, we’re confident that the needs of our students are being identified as never before,” says Tanya. “But we really see the difference in how our teachers approach their students, especially as a result of PASS data. Teachers are asking much earlier for differentiated support.”
The introduction of the assessment programme was led by the Learning Support Team. As Tanya explains, “It was a logical choice because the Learning Support Team are used to working with Special Educational Needs (SEN) data and referrals processes, as well as working across all age groups in the school.”
It’s too early in the school’s journey to properly measure the impact on student outcomes, but student needs identified by the data are already driving a range of initiatives and interventions.
Tanya offers an example of how the data can reveal students whose support needs have not been identified through classroom observation: “Recently, by triangulating CAT4 scores with other data, I identified an underperforming student who needed additional support with his reading and writing. His teachers just thought that he didn’t care about the quality of his work, that everything was the bare minimum and rushed. But I could see from his CAT4 scores that he had the potential to do much better than the grades he was getting.” Tanya adds: “To ascertain his exact issues with reading and writing, I delved deeper with additional assessments to determine exactly which areas required support. He now has a targeted plan to improve his spelling, sentence structure and writing fluency.”
Students in Grades 11 and 12 were not tested, but teachers from these grades were asked to comment on the Grade 10 students’ data to identify support that students may need to effectively transition into the DP programme.
Example reports, using real student data, were used to explain key concepts and promote discussion about the data.
The school will continue to build on the existing support it provides for teachers, both in extending the bank of interventions and in increasing collaboration between subject teachers and specialists. The school has realised that they need to give teachers dedicated time to analyse and decide how to use the data in their classes.
Curriculum coordinators are analysing the data to inform future curriculum developments to address the learning needs of the school’s student population, and school administrators are planning to use data trends to determine professional development needs and predict staffing requirements.
“Teaching in the IB is all about knowing and understanding students,” says Tanya, “and this data just helps that process.”