Why do we assess?

14 April 2014
There is a concern in the press and amongst some of the members of our fine profession that increased emphasis on assessment and progress is deleterious to the well being of our students and the quality of our practice.

I disagree. Students, like us, like to know that they're improving and progressing. They like to be able to define this mathematical ability succinctly, and with confidence. Our job as teachers is to ensure that students understand exactly what assessment is. The results of a summative assessment cannot be claimed to tell you how good a child is at maths, and we shouldn't claim that it will. I can't even define what that means! Instead, we should be able to say 'the result of this test is our best guess as to the grade that you would achieve were you to take your GCSE now'. As the terms and years pass, and the students make their way up through the grades, these results provide a clear, quantitative analysis of their improvement in knowledge and understanding.

Testing, in the way it is currently carried out, is not perfect but I can't think of a better alternative. I am happy with the way that I assess my students and don't think that it means that I 'drill' or 'coach' them, at least not until the latter part of year 11. I'm currently replanning my y7 scheme of work. I'll be thinking carefully about the skills and knowledge that I want my y7s to have acquired by the end of the year and will plan the best possible way for them to get there. I will then create assessments during the year. Since I can easily change my assessments using CAT, I can adapt those tests based on how much material has actually been covered.

I would like to think that my assessments inform and improve my practice and that they benefit my students rather than terrifying them! At the very least, I think the benefits of testing, provided it is done in the right way, outweigh the downsides.

What do you think? Get the debate started @createatest.

Thanks for reading and we hope you are enjoying your time off!
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