Measuring student progress is fundamental to schools’ and teachers’ success. Progression tests provide an objective indicator of student progress over time and their insights empower teaching staff to identify learning gaps and tailor students’ learning to achieve educational goals faster.
Not to be confused with school competitions, which rank participating students against those from other schools to spur them on to greater success, progression testing is about helping each student reach their personal best. These full-cohort assessments rank students against themselves, in most cases highlighting their growth year after year because of the insights the teachers are able to apply to their learning programs.
It sounds ideal, but who’s got time to add another test to their mounting workload? You may be surprised to learn that progression tests actually alleviate some of the resourcing and time management issues facing many teachers and school leaders today.
1. Improve reporting and class allocation with flexible testing windows
Annual benchmarking tests, like Reach, offer two 9-week flexible testing windows to help you organise the assessments at the best time of year for your school and teachers. You may want to schedule the test at the start of the year to help with lesson planning and programmes, as well as class allocation. Or you may want to schedule later in the year, and use the data provided by Reach to communicate grades and class allocations during parent/teacher interviews, giving parents the peace of mind that you’re acting in their child’s best interests. Because the questions in Reach promote higher-order thinking versus rote learning, they allow you to confidently pinpoint students’ abilities to meet an outcome, and grade them more accurately. This makes them valuable for whichever test window you decide to use.
2. Get an accurate understanding of every one of your students’ progression
Reach progression tests are for students from Years 2 to 10 in Australia and 3 to 11 in New Zealand. Because they cover the entire class, from the highest to lowest percentile, they give you a complete picture of where to direct your effort and how to tailor your teaching methods to ensure everyone is achieving their maximum potential. They also help to identify students with learning gaps, who are best addressed through a separate support class, and highlight the opportunity to form Gifted and Talented/SEAL programs for students working beyond grade level.
“The questions can be accessed by all students, thereby increasing the confidence in student ability while providing a small range of very challenging questions for the highly gifted,” says Sohini Bhave, Head of Science at Normanhurst Boys High School.
3. Identify clear gaps for students by testing them with the same set of levelled questions
Unlike other testing styles, student benchmarking is built around test questions that intentionally remain the same or similar, allowing you to see your cohorts move forward in aptitude through time. Students’ historical performance is a simple yet powerful marker of the effectiveness of your learning programs and techniques. When students do fall short of where you expect them to be, you immediately know which problems to address. And because the same criteria applies to every student, you have complete clarity on gaps and can avoid spending countless hours poring over students’ work to figure out how to improve their learning.
4. Improve integrated teaching programs through isolated subject testing
Reach offers assessments in a range of subjects, including English, Writing, Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation, Science, Mathematics and Digital Technologies. Each assessment provides granular data insights on your students’ knowledge. But, of course, when you teach these subjects in the classroom, you include them in integrated programs, which don’t reveal the separate, detailed insights. So, testing each subject in isolation through a benchmarking assessment can make your integrated literacy or STEM programs much more effective.
“Reach is a magnifying glass that lets you see very closely how everyone is tracking and what’s happening in the broader school environment,” says ICAS assessment consultant and Reach subject matter expert Nardin Hanna.
5. Apply effective insights using practical, real-world data
Some annual benchmarking tests make it difficult to extrapolate meaning from the reams of results data which takes time away from your already busy schedule. Reach data sets, however, are served in dashboards that are filled with assisted smart insights, making it easy for you to access and extract actionable meaning. Assisted smart insights are data sets that come with the support of a team of assessment consultants to make light work of getting to the gold. Our assessment consultants can support you in interpreting and using the data, and are available year-round to support data-informed decision-making.
“The assessment data available with Reach’s results allows my teachers to reflect on their teaching practice and make modifications,” says Bhave. “This provides students greater depth in learning the science concepts while reducing teacher load in writing assessment items. Reach Science is therefore incorporated as a compulsory assessment for Year 7 to 10 at Normanhurst Boys High.”
Test questions are provided to you as a key component of diagnostic data sets, allowing you to see how students have answered them. This gives you the opportunity to explain certain concepts or teach particular skills in greater depth. Questions that were difficult for students can be incorporated into daily or cumulative reviews to consolidate their understanding in that area. Using data diagnostically is a powerful tool for identifying students’ strengths and weaknesses and supporting tangible outcomes. And because it can be sliced and diced in numerous ways – by gender, individual classes or by full cohorts, for example – it takes the guesswork out of lesson planning.
Student progress assessments work!
There’s no question that student progression testing is highly valuable to teachers and the students you teach. But as teaching becomes busier and schools are increasingly stretched for resources, you need compelling reasons to take on anything extra.
However, when you realise that student progression testing can actually save you time by optimising curriculum planning, allocating classes and reporting, you may be more open to the idea and realise that the “extra” work is worth it. After successfully implementing the test, you may find many things to love about annual benchmarking assessments like Reach.
To learn more, check out the Reach page on our website.