Our school embraces difference.
Stephany Herzog, the Learning Support Co-ordinator at the elementary school

CAT4 and PASS : Asking the right questions at the American International School in Abu Dhabi

The American International School (AISA) in Abu Dhabi knows about cultural diversity – its student body of 1400 students, aged 4 to 18, encompasses more than 75 different nationalities. Approximately 80% of children speak English as an additional language. While the school provides a high quality American education, it also maintains strong links with the community, for example, the secondary school is gender segregated in keeping with local regulations.

“Our school embraces difference,” says Stephany Herzog, the Learning Support Co-ordinator at the elementary school. “Our students are incredibly diverse and have an ability range that includes educational difficulties as well as very high achievers. It’s important to us that we meet every child’s needs, but attainment data alone does not give the full picture. For example, if achievements are low, why are they low? Is it to do with a child’s grasp of English? Are there emotional issues? Do they like school?

“To nurture success, we wanted to find a better way to identify individual strengths, weaknesses and attitudes. After thorough research, we were excited to discover GL Education’s Cognitive Abilities Test and the Pupil Attitudes to Self and School survey.”

Finding out more

The Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4) supports schools in understanding students’ developed abilities and likely academic potential, through verbal, non-verbal, quantitative and spatial ability tasks.

“Our principal was on-board very quickly. She saw the same thing I did; that more information was needed on our students. For example, was this boy gifted and talented overall, or just at maths? Was that girl struggling everywhere or did she have a bias towards a spatial thinking style and we were talking her ear off?

“We both liked the fact that CAT4 is computer based, streamlined and simple to implement. Teachers don’t need to score anything and it’s instantaneous to run different reports.

“In fact, the only hesitation we had was that it is developed in Britain and therefore might not work with our attainment assessment for an American curriculum (MAP). We decided that the reports CAT4 produces were so comprehensive and user-friendly, it was worth the risk. In practice, it has not been an issue. There is some terminology that is different, but it’s still straightforward to compare our attainment data with the standardised age scores from CAT4.”

Personalised learning

With CAT4, the school is able to gain valuable information on individuals very rapidly.

“We have children at both ends of the special educational needs spectrum, but screening the whole school one by one would be impossibly time consuming. When we first used CAT4 last year, we were able to assess more than 600 children in two weeks and quickly identify where further evaluation would be useful.”

Teachers have found the results intriguing and are keen to dig into them even deeper.

“It has been interesting for them to find out if CAT4 results match what they have already noticed. It has also begun to inform their instruction of classes – if 90% have a bias towards a spatial thinking style, what’s the best way to teach them?”

The school has also kept parents well informed on what they are doing and why, and the response has been very positive.

“We held a parent session to which was recorded and put on a closed YouTube channel. Keeping parents in the loop really enables successful home-school contact and it has been a good conversation starter. We’re able to say, ‘We’ve seen this, are you seeing it at home too?’”

Monitoring well-being

Last September, the school used the attitudinal survey PASS for the first time, a trusted psychometric measurement that can help inform teaching strategies and monitor well-being.

“We wanted the missing piece of the puzzle – attitude. Were children enjoying school and feeling happy, or feeling bored and insecure in their ability to learn? PASS uncovers this information for us so we can fully understand more than just academic barriers to learning.

“We were delighted to find that students really like coming here and feel supported. They feel as though they belong, which re-confirms that we are moving in the right direction with their education.”

Ready to grasp opportunity

Now, AISA is committed to making these assessments part of the school plan.

“We have inspections by ADEC every year and we need hard data that evidences our work. We are now able to say, we think this is happening and our assessments show us the same picture.

“Ultimately, we want all our pupils to do well and feel successful, whether their strength is musical, sports, social skills or academic. We can see who is working to their potential, who is coasting, who needs to be stretched, even who is over-performing and perhaps needs the pressure taking off. “Those with educational difficulties can be further supported, and we can make sure high achievers who don’t often hit barriers in their learning are taught resilience and critical thinking for when they do. We’re in a position to ask the right questions, look at the whole child and personalise their time at our school.”

Benefits for American International School of CAT4 and PASS

  • Rapid yet reliable way to gain valuable information on individual pupils’ strengths, weaknesses and attitudes
  • More than 600 children assessed over two weeks
  • Digital format is streamlined and easy to implement, with instant reports
  • Non curriculum specific, so suitable for use alongside the school’s American assessments
  • Parent reports shared to open meaningful conversations with parents
  • Teachers able to personalise lessons according to student learning profiles
  • Hard data useful for evidencing impact during inspections

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