In a school filled with hundreds of students, each with different skill levels, learning styles and personalities, how do you ensure your teachers are catering to their needs?
It’s one of the toughest challenges in education, and it starts with discovering where students are on their learning journeys. Thankfully, there’s a gold standard for getting this information: benchmarking assessments.
What are benchmarking assessments?
For a quick refresher: benchmarking assessments are periodic tests that measure students’ performance against the curriculum, as well as their performance against their peers. They give teachers clear insight into each student’s knowledge and understanding, to determine whether they’re falling behind, where they’re on track and where they’re ahead. The results data reveals the range of student capabilities in your teachers’ classes and helps them to create inclusive learning programs.
Benchmarking assessments are based on core curriculum subjects such as Mathematics, English and Science, each with the appropriate question types: multiple choice, true/false, essays, etc. They’re designed to rigorously test the syllabus for their respective subject and provide an accurate benchmark for participating students.
The assessments are most useful when completed annually to receive consistent results data, and ideally, set for the entire school. The more data you have, the more accurate and useful it will be, allowing you to make better comparisons, track individual growth and identify trends. This is why they’re also known as student progression tests – with regular data, you can clearly measure how each student is progressing through their education.
When you’ve completed the tests and have your results data, it can be analysed on a number of levels to dig out the gold:
- Individual students – teachers can discover the skill levels of each student, which may include their grade level, comparison against their class and which questions they failed (Reach allows you to do all of this and more). Armed with this valuable data, teachers can then easily identify learning gaps for each student, and determine what to teach, which resources they may need and which class they may be best placed.
- Classes – compare the performance of classes against others in the school, to see which teachers are excelling and which may benefit from extra support.
- Cohorts – see year-by-year performance for a particular cohort, to determine whether they are below average, average or above average, and which changes you can make to help them realise their potential.
- Years – discover whether certain year levels are falling behind, and work with your stage coordinator (or equivalent for your state) to figure out how you can lift them. Or if performance is lacking for a subject across the entire school, you can consider implementing a new learning program to help.
Benefits of benchmarking assessments
We already touched on some of the benefits above, but here are the key reasons why benchmarking assessments are valuable to schools:
- Accurately identify students’ skills – with minimal effort, your teachers can clearly identify where each student is on their learning journey. This helps them decide what to teach, when to increase or decrease topic complexity, when they may need to intervene or provide extra support, and what other positive changes they can make to improve learning outcomes.
- Closely monitor student growth – with a distinct frame of reference, teachers can identify whether students are advancing as quickly as they should be for each subject and tailor their learning programs to suit.
- Place students in the right classes – with accurate norm-referencing, your teachers can see how each student compares against their classmates and year level, and determine whether they should be placed in a different class. This makes the assessments particularly useful for mixed ability classes.
- Identify cohort efficacy – by tracking a cohort’s performance each year, teachers can easily determine how they compare to their peers, and implement more informed teaching strategies as a result.
- Measure the success of your changes – if your teachers implement a change, whether it’s their method of delivery, the principles they use, the topics they focus on, or something else, a benchmarking assessment helps to clarify whether the change was successful.
- Improve professional development programs – benchmarking results can help you determine which teachers may need extra support through professional development, so that they can grow and improve. This can be especially useful for newly-qualified teachers. You can also identify high-performing staff more easily, who can potentially become mentors and run professional development sessions.
Benchmarking assessments are a valuable and worthwhile method for schools, especially when completed every year. If you’d like to learn more about our own benchmarking assessments and how they can help lift the performance of your school, check out Reach.