We set out to have a consistency of understanding of moderation practices required by the National Standards and particularly overall teacher judgments. And we started out at the beginning of the year with gathering baseline data so that we met the needs of the 14 schools in the cluster. The baseline data was around assessment practices in schools, what people were using, what they were using it for, how it was being interpreted, and planned the programme from there really.
One of the reasons for starting the project was that several of us had real concerns as to how we were going to give judgment on children’s work with small numbers of children in our school. Like some of year levels are only 15 or 16 children. Now most of the staff here have been teaching long enough to be able to make a fairly accurate professional judgment but if we’re going to be fair to those children who go to the local intermediate where there are children coming from 12 schools, we have to be as consistent with our assessments as other schools are.
We recognised pretty early on there was a huge diversity even within the staff of expertise and of knowledge, and so we started off looking at what we actually know in our own environment before we started looking at was it common between and among other schools. So that was a huge challenge from the start.
Some schools gathered more data than others, and when they actually sat down and looked at all the assessments that they did with kids at the beginning of the year, they started to question what they were doing. There was a whole lot of information that sort of went nowhere, the kids were tested and it sat there. Other schools actually used the assessments with the children to design learning pathways if you like, but others it just sat there, so there was a whole range.
It’s really hard to have one size fits all and to try and get those standards moderated so that you know one person’s at is the same as another person’s at, when the actual intention may be slightly different or the context of learning may be slightly different from teacher to teacher.
There does need to be a critical level of assessment done. Don’t forget you’re looking at three areas, you’re not just assessing one area, you’re really focusing in on the literacy, reading and writing and the numeracy as well. Whether you include other areas like strands which the PATs do but then if you don’t gather that data and have that information on hand then it can affect the programmes, the value of the programmes that you’re offering to the kids I believe. And also the value of the information you’re giving to both your Board of Trustees and to parent community as well.
We used PAT Maths this year, it wasn’t the first time we’d used it but um, taking the staff through the use of their assessment information we discovered that really they hadn’t unpacked or looked deeply at the assessments and so we took a step back and actually said right let’s look at the tools, and looked at the PAT online on the NZCER website and there’s a huge amount that can be gleaned from that area, and for teachers it informs them hugely of the gaps in the children’s learning and of the steps they can take to cover those gaps.