Monitoring students’ progress is an essential part of teaching and learning. Teachers continuously monitor students’ knowledge and skills so that they can design learning experiences that will help them to refine their skills and extend their knowledge. Likewise, teachers monitor the impact of those learning experiences to determine which approaches are most effective for their students and refine their instruction accordingly. Because of the amount of time teachers spend interacting with students, observing them in the classroom and evaluating their work, they have very detailed insight into how each student is progressing and what strategies will be most effective for supporting continued growth.
While this approach allows us to track each student’s progress over time in great detail, it doesn’t tell us much about how our students are doing relative to other students of their age. For example, we can see if a child has made significant progress in their reading skills, and we can see how those skills compare to their classmates’ skill level, but we can’t easily gauge whether their skill level is typical for a child their age. Of course teachers will have a sense of what is typical based on prior experience with other cohorts of students, but that will be localized to the contexts in which they have taught. This is where large-scale, external assessments can be useful.
In February, students at Eastgate Academy participated in the International Student Assessment (ISA) program. This is a series of five assessments developed by the Australian Council for Educational Research. The assessments are similar to the New Brunswick Provincial Assessments; however, because the ISA includes students from all over the world, we will get valuable insight into how our students are doing relative to their peers globally.
There are a number of features of the ISA that are particularly valuable:
- Students all over the world participate in the ISA. This allows us to refine our curriculum to ensure that our graduates will have the knowledge and skills that they need to succeed here in New Brunswick, in the rest of Canada and internationally.
- The ISA tasks are designed to align with the IB programs. This means that the tasks assess the kinds of knowledge and skills that our curriculum is designed to foster.
- Assessments in all five subjects – Reading, Narrative Writing, Expository Writing, Scientific Literacy and Mathematics – are available every year for students in grades 3 to 10. This allows us to check progress and refine our curriculum at more frequent intervals than the provincial assessments.
The ISA is one of the tools that we are using to ensure that our students are equipped for success in New Brunswick, Canada and the world. The combination of teachers’ on-going assessment at the school level and large-scale, international assessment offers rich and robust information about how our students are doing and how we can refine our curriculum to best meet their needs.