Analyzing the use and implications of high stakes assessments on students and teachers in the International School of Stuttgart
Teachers need to think about how to best assess student learning and how to implement assessment effectively in order to understand the outcome of the tests for each individual student. I have been thinking about this topic a lot, and have had several discussions with my colleagues. I’ve also realized that there has been a gap of knowledge related to assessments in other countries.
First of all, RTI has been new to me. What is it?
Response to Intervention (RTI) is a multi-tier approach to the early identification and support of students with learning and behavior needs. The RTI process begins with high-quality instruction and universal screening of all children in the general education classroom. Struggling learners are provided with interventions at increasing levels of intensity to accelerate their rate of learning. These services may be provided by a variety of personnel, including general education teachers, special educators, and specialists. Progress is closely monitored to assess both the learning rate and level of performance of individual students. Educational decisions about the intensity and duration of interventions are based on individual student response to instruction. RTI is designed for use when making decisions in both general education and special education, creating a well-integrated system of instruction and intervention guided by child outcome data.
I have been teaching our youngest students for a very long time (nearly 26 years), and throughout this time there have always been students who need a little, some, or a lot of teacher’s support. And honestly, I have asked myself several times: how could I help the best? How can I best help my student develop in a way that is not interruptive, and where he/she is engaged in reaching a higher learning level? Where do I get the tools to help, to assess and to use the best practice?
I have read several articles about how to assess students, also using the RTI. In one article it is mentioned that students mostly get support when they are interruptive, not fitting into the classroom routine, disturbing all the time.
So –I went to a page where RTI is translated into German to get an idea how this is set up.
The article itself has been very interesting: It is about RTI related support for children’s learning in reading at German schools.
RTI describes three levels where it is shown that the approach is effective:
- Phase 1: all the students get tested in a way where the level isn’t too high so each student might achieve the score.
- Phase 2: If there are students who show some kind of learning difficulties in the test the teachers figure out how, when and what might cause a problem.
- Phase 3: there will be individual training for all these young learners related to their reading level. Strategies will be taken on board to engage the children’s learning in a way that there are little steps for success. So –the child is taken where he/she is assessed related to their current ability, brought to higher learning by finding out which strategy works best, and also to slowly integrate them into class.
German Article: Inklusive Schulentwicklung durch response-tointervention (RTI) – Realisierungsmöglichkeiten des RTI-Konzepts im Förderbereich Lesen Christian Huber, Michael Grosche und Peter Schütterle
At the International School of Stuttgart (ISS) assessments are used to show how a child works for the IB (International Baccalaureate) curriculum. I need to find out whether RTI is used for assessing our students.
First I met with one of our Educational Psychologists Melanie S. who mentioned that there is Standardized Testing going on at our school, such as: ACER tests from grade 3 to 10. She, as a school psychologist, analyzes the data once a year.
MAP testing for Grades 2 to 5 (and further, sometimes). This MAP testing is taken two times per year.
MAP® Growth™ measures what students know and informs what they’re ready to learn next. By dynamically adjusting to each student’s performance, MAP Growth creates a personalized assessment experience that accurately measures performance—whether a student performs on, above, or below grade level. Timely, easy-to-use reports help teachers teach, students learn, and administrators lead.
PIPS testing: This testing is taken in Kindergarten (for 5 to 6 year old children) two times a year. Our school counselor Paul M. runs this and we use this data twice a year.
PIPS measures the progress of a 5-year-old new entrant over their first 12 months of school. PIPS provides a profile of a child’s strengths and weaknesses to help plan appropriate learning experiences. It is an early indicator of special educational needs and can monitor progress made over the first year at school. It helps answer the questions:
- What do children know when they start school?
- What progress is made in the first year?
- How effective is my school program compared to other schools?
The start of year assessment is conducted within the first two weeks of the new entrant beginning school.http://www.canterbury.ac.nz/cem/assessment/value-added-assessments/pips/
In talking to our 3rd grade teacher, Kimberly V., I learned that the students are tested through ACER, MAP, and Fountas and Pinnell.
Benchmark Assessment System (BAS)
Using the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment Systems to determine student’s independent and instructional reading levels, teachers are able to observe student reading behaviors one-on-one, engage in comprehension conversations that go beyond retelling, and make informed decisions that connect assessment to instruction.
Also, Kimberly works with: rubrics, Mathletics tests, normal ones like formative assessments and reflections. She said that reflection forms, self reflection forms and anecdotal records are taken as well.
ACER: ACER is a recognized international leader in the development and provision of high quality assessment and reporting tools and services for schools, universities, TAFE institutes and Registered Training organizations, health professionals, employers, and governments in Australia and internationally.
I also had a conversation with our Lower School Principal Mr. Paul Morris, and our PYP coordinator Mr. Alexander Whitaker. They told me how or students are assessed, especially those children who have special needs or disabilities.
As I live in Germany I also know about the Europe Testing called PISA, a test that is taken for 9th graders all around the world. Just a few weeks ago there has been a report from the “Stuttgarter Zeitung”, a local newspaper with the PISA results for Baden-Württemberg. Those results have been unsatisfying – the reason might be too many children in one class, too many different learning levels, a wide range of students with migration background who still need some German language support, and also children with specific needs (such as ADHA), which is important to be supported individually- but there are teachers missing. So far, the outcome of this article has been that the government will make an attempt to support schools in finding support from teachers, assistants and others, especially in providing extra support for children with special needs.
However, Germany still ranked among the top European countries for education, according to the PISA report.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published its highly anticipated PISA report for 2015, comparing the aptitudes of around 540,000 15-year-olds from 72 different countries in the fields of science, reading and mathematics.
Overall, German students performed above the OECD average in all three areas tested. Germany also had a higher share of top performers – those who scored the top levels or 5 or 6 in at least one subject – than the OECD average, as well as a smaller share of low achievers – those who scored below level 2 – than the OECD average.
The ranking placed Germany on par with the United Kingdom, and below Slovenia, Finland and Estonia, which performed the best of the European countries. There, less than 5 percent of students were low performers in all three subjects, whereas in Germany this proportion was more than double at nearly one in ten students.
German students performed best in science and reading, but science scores saw a drop since the last PISA report in 2012 by 15 points out of a possible 1,000, and math scores dropped from 514 to 506. Reading scores increased by one point.
In the category of science, 11 percent of German students were top performers, which was 3 percentage points higher than the OECD average.
Rich-poor achievement gap
Germany has more of a gap between students based on their socioeconomic backgrounds than other countries on average: there was a 16 percent variation in student performance based on socioeconomic status, compared to the OECD average of 13 percent.
Still, this gap did shrink by 4 percentage points since 2006.
“As in the majority of OECD countries, a more socio-economically advantaged student in Germany scores more than 30 points higher in science (the equivalent of one year of schooling), on average, than a disadvantaged student,” the report explained, noting that this point difference was 42 in Germany.
In contrast, Canada, Estonia, Finland and Japan all had 10 percent variation or less between advantaged and disadvantaged students.
“Germany’s education system is less equitable than the average across OECD countries,” the report added. “However, equity has improved in Germany since 2006. Students’ socioeconomic status became a less reliable predictor of achievement.”
I think I need to get even deeper into these assessments that I have mentioned, and hope that by using these my students will be tested in a fair and developmentally appropiate way.