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St Mark's School – Choosing and using the PaCT tool

St Mark’s is a state-integrated, full primary school in Christchurch with a roll of around 200.

Review

The school has concentrated on building a model of inquiry based on learner-focused evaluation processes. They appreciate the opportunity that the removal of National Standards has given them to reconsider their assessment systems and processes. They have identified their needs as the following:

  • monitoring of progress
  • summation of achievement at particular points in the year
  • descriptions and illustrations of progressions of learning to be used by teachers and students
  • a tool that will provide teachers and students with the "what next" for teaching and learning
  • measurement of progress and achievement for analysis and teacher discussion
  • consistent and easily understood assessment across the school.

They want to keep overall teacher judgments, understanding that no single source of information can accurately summarise a student’s achievement or progress. They do not want to keep the anniversary reporting from the National Standards, as it was complicated and very difficult to administer, and do not want to have to be in compliance mode with their assessment systems i.e. assessing to provide information to other stakeholders without using it for teaching and learning.

They want an easy to use assessment system that will support class-based assessment for learning, teacher inquiry, information sharing with parents and Boards of Trustees and wider data measurement and analysis when required.

Investigation

The school looked at the range of assessment tools available for literacy and numeracy. The list is large, and includes (but not exhaustively) PATs, e-asTTle, running records, PIPs, GloSS, JAM, STAR, PROBE 2, BURT, MidYIS, NumPA, NEMP, ARBs, Schonell, New Zealand Curriculum Exemplars, PaCT, rubrics, and student voice. So many tools, each with its advantages and disadvantages, all measuring in different ways. School leaders, in consultation with their staff, decided to investigate the Progress and Consistency Tool (PaCT) because it seemed to support their criteria for an effective assessment tool. A group from the school attended PaCT workshops and discovered that the tool has the following advantages:

  • The Learning Progressions Frameworks are embedded in the PaCT tool. Teachers are able to understand the knowledge, skills and rates of progress described in The New Zealand Curriculum in reading, writing and mathematics.
  • Each learning area (reading, writing and mathematics) is broken down into aspects and illustrations are available for all stages of learning.
  • The tools are designed for cross-curricular use, for example, there are illustrations from the science and social studies learning areas.
  • The tool will align teacher judgments with New Zealand curriculum levels.
  • The clear descriptions and illustrations support moderation and collaborative inquiry.
  • It supports assessment for learning – teachers can easily give feedback to students about their learning and plan next learning steps with them.
  • The tool produces reports that provide information for students, teachers (individually and as a learning group) and school leaders.

Teachers like the fact that there are guidelines for when a judgment doesn’t match with the knowledge that the teacher has. This supports their knowledge that assessment is never cut and dried and needs careful investigation.

Action

Information from the PaCT workshops was brought back to the school, and it was decided that a self-selected group would start using PaCT for the writing curriculum area. This area was chosen because it is the area showing the lowest achievement data. This group then shared their learning with teachers across the school, after they had learned the tips and tricks for speeding up the process of assessment.

The expectation now is that all teachers use the tool to measure writing progress and achievement. Data from the tool is used in the classroom, within professional learning groups and in the leadership team to discuss student progress and work out ways to support student progress and achievement.

Future action

The intention in the future is to implement the use of PaCT across all learning areas (reading, writing and mathematics) when teachers and leaders gain more familiarity with the tool. Leaders have decided not to entirely do away with other forms of assessment as they like to ensure that their judgments can be supported through other assessments. These assessments, though, will be infrequent, carefully planned within teaching teams, and used for corroboration purposes. The main tool to support their focus on assessment for learning will be the PaCT tool.

With thanks to the Principal, Averil Worner, at St Mark’s School.