8 ways to ensure assessment data improves learning for high achievement

The data has been published, results analysed, sub groups compared… Now what?

Are you making the most effective use of available data at all levels in school to support the progress of all learners, including the more able? Are your staff confident in using data to inform, support, challenge and drive school improvement?

In a context where Ofsted and Estyn inspections are taking a wider view of the quality of education in individual schools, the questions you should be asking about the use of data to inform planning, teaching and target setting are no less important. Retaining a focus on what data means for the individual learner, while offering challenging expectations, targets and interventions, will lead to whole-school improvement.

Read on for eight reasons school data may not currently be working for you or your learners – and how to turn that around…

  • You’re looking at data in a vacuum

Context is key. It’s important to understand how different groups of learners, including your more able, perform against relevant benchmarks – both in the context of your school and in relation to the regional and national picture. Are you evaluating learners’ performance in relation to historic trends and the performance of similar schools locally and nationally?

  • History seems to be repeating itself

You’ve written your school improvement plan and set priorities for the year… but it all looks rather similar to the one you dusted off 12 months ago. Are you introducing new initiatives and priorities for groups of learners based on prior attainment? Are you empowering middle leaders by sharing your vision with them?

  • School targets are hiding underachievers

Your school targets are set in stone at the start of the year and never reviewed in light of changes in progress data. As learners are identified as being more able, whole-school performance targets should be reviewed and updated. Do teaching and learning provide sufficient challenge for all, along with opportunities to identify those who are underachieving?

  • Data isn’t shared at transition points

Continuity is essential for effective transition, whether between key stages or between schools. Strategies should be in place to ensure information is shared and used to support provision, taking account of prior performance. Is transition information also used for movement between year groups, teaching groups or teachers?

  • Your data systems don’t support classroom practice

Your subject leaders have included opportunities for assessment in curriculum plans, but the impact is limited because your school data systems are unclear and lack rigour. Internal systems for tracking progress must be used consistently. Is your school data accurate and current, and are all staff confident in analysing it to monitor progress?

  • School data is locked away in a dark cupboard

Used effectively, school data should improve practice and prevent underachievement. This should involve all stakeholders – including external agencies, learners themselves and parents/carers having access to and understanding the data. Tackling underachievement and sustaining progress is a collective endeavour.

  • Planning doesn’t interact with data

At classroom level you have annotated teaching folders with data and seating plans, but these are not regularly reviewed working documents. Formative assessment should identify gaps in learning and provide high-quality feedback. Are teachers using data to analyse gaps and take learners forward from their starting points?

  • You’re missing an opportunity to empower learners

Learners make greater progress and acquire a greater understanding of the world around them when they can take control of their own learning – and this can be particularly true of the more able. Do your school data practices have individuals at their heart? Are learners empowered to recognise and take ownership of their own achievement?

Free sample: “Using data to improve provision for more able learners”

In the latest addition to the NACE Essentials range, NACE Associate Dr Ann McCarthy sets out critical questions and actions for schools when using data to inform planning, teaching and target setting. To access a free sample of this guide, click here.

 National Association for Able Children in Education (NACE)

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Categories: 1st POST, Data, Further Education, Infant, Leadership, Primary, Promotion and Secondary.

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