Assessment and evaluation at Canberra Montessori
When we think of assessments, we are generally concerned with the performance of individual learners, whereas evaluation demonstrates the quality and effectiveness of an educational program. Since taking on the position of Director of Student Development, part of my role is to see how we assess and evaluate our children here at CMS.
The Montessori approach is based on the belief that each child is a competent learner, born ready to learn from all their environments. We facilitate assessments through detailed observations and individualised or small group lessons. The child uses the materials and activities to progress through the curriculum, revealing to us a detailed, personalised, learning picture of each child working at their own pace.
Directors have always collected data not captured by external assessment to ensure parents, colleagues and the learners themselves build a balanced, well-rounded image of individual development and achievement. This is carried out daily in the classrooms, for instance through observations, checklists and finished work together with work diaries for the older children. We look at the many areas of education essential for a child’s development, e.g. social skills, learning how to interact with others, collaboration and creativity, to name a few. We have asked ourselves what we could add to CMS from an external provider to compliment what happens in the class, and give parents an even more detailed overview of their child.
We researched a reading assessment tool and, after participating in the Literacy and Numeracy Coaching Academy program (which supports schools to build student outcomes with reading) and discussions with Canberra Christian College, we have implemented the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Reading Assessment System. This benchmark gives us a standard against which we can measure a child’s reading ability. This system asks children to read out loud carefully selected texts, which they have not seen before, and then to discuss the book. The reading assessments are carried out twice a year with the children who can read, and an individual report is distributed to parents.
After discussions with Radford College we researched PAT Maths: the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) Progressive Achievement Tests in Mathematics (PATMaths). This is an Australian test designed to provide objective, norm-referenced information to teachers about the level of achievement attained by their students in the skills and understanding of mathematics. This assessment will be carried out once a year in Term 4 for Year 1 to Year 6, to inform practice for the following year.
We participated in NAPLAN this year in May and the results have been analysed. This allows the Directors to use this ‘snapshot’ for helping inform their practice with those individual children. NAPLAN is a single test that focuses on literacy and numeracy across Australia for a child at Year 3 and Year 5. A class average score (Wu, 2010) varies by around 10% from year to year due to random fluctuations of student cohort and inaccuracies in test scores. Therefore, NAPLAN scores alone (Koretz, 2008), cannot show whether schools are effective; a range of methods are in place in all schools to give a more balanced overview of individual children.
In August at CMS, a small cohort of our children participated in the Trial for NAPLAN Online. From 2017, NAPLAN will be offered online, as well as in paper-based form. The Education Council see the benefits of NAPLAN as: children with a high number of questions correct will be directed to more challenging questions, whilst those who have a lower level of accuracy in the initial set of questions will be directed to questions that are less challenging. It is hoped that this more tailored testing will provide Directors with more targeted and detailed information on their children’s performance on the tests. Delivery of assessments online will significantly reduce the time it takes to provide feedback to schools, children and parents.
The Directors for Kindergarten aged children through to Cycle 3 also write Individual Student Reports each Semester. These progress reports record and assess your child’s academic and social development, as well as clarify goals. The reports highlight your child’s progress and characteristics in a way that only someone who truly knows and understands your child could convey. Parents of younger children have a one to one Parent Teacher Interview each Semester to discuss their child’s progress.
Assessment and evaluation, when done well, are instruments enabling and supporting the best educational outcomes for children. Good assessment and evaluation ‘wash back’ into good teaching and learning. For this reason, assessment and evaluation activities are ideally planned as an integral part of our teaching sequence from the beginning.
Bearing all this in mind, I would like to offer a time to meet with any interested parents to explain ‘Assessment and Evaluation at CMS’, including the F&P benchmark program, PAT Maths, NAPLAN (online & paper-based). This will occur on Wednesday 2nd November in the parent/staff room (Eucalyptus) between 9-10am.
Looking forward to seeing you on 2nd November.
Director – Student Development
Koretz, D (2008), Measuring up, Harvard University Press.
Wu, M (2010), The inappropriate use of Naplan data. Professional voice Vol 8.
Education Council, NAPLAN website, http://www.nap.edu.au/home