National exams, SAT tests, AP exams, IB exams, MAP tests, these are just some of assessments that are used by schools each year to assess student progress. In looking at the value of these types of assessments, parents have to understand both their own personal goals for their children and the goals of the school.
In addition, these types of summative assessments are just one type used by schools to better understand your child’s needs and track academic growth. As a parent, you need to insist that the assessments that your child takes, not only provide performance data (normative testing), but have a direct impact on the instruction that your child receives (standards based). If your child’s school cannot explain clearly why and how assessments are used and give evidence of how they impact instruction, you can and should demand more.
Not all assessments that your child takes are created equal. Assessments fall into one of two categories, summative and formative. Summative assessments are those that we are all most familiar with, they are end of unit or end of semester exams that try to gauge a student’s grasp of the concepts taught and are used to come up with a final grade or an overall ranking for a student. When the goal of the summative assessment is to compare your child to others to see how they line up, that is called a “normative” assessment.This type of assessment includes national exams, SAT tests and many of the annual assessments given in the Unties States and other countries. However, normative assessments can also be “standards based” which means that the student’s ability is compared against a specific set of skills and knowledge to gauge what they know instead of just comparing one student to another. If your child’s school is not doing this type of standards based assessment, they most likely are not able to adjust their instruction as effectively to meet your child’s needs.
Summative assessments, whether normative or standards based, are just one type of assessment. The other important type of assessment is called formative assessment. Formative assessment is what good teachers use to continually check in on student progress and performance in order to “inform” their instruction. This is similar to the goals of a summative standard based assessment, but is done on a much more frequent and informal basis. Quality teachers are constantly assessing their students in this fashion and reshaping and responding to student needs. This process takes teaching from a process of “covering” material with students just repeating back what they know, to “uncovering” material where students walk away with a deep understanding of what they are learning.
The question that an informed parent is asking of their school is “How is this data going to be used?” and “How will this assessment help my child succeed in the classroom?” While we all want to know how our child is doing compared to everyone else, the very next question if they are not doing well is, “How will they get better?” At Bandung Alliance Intercultural School (BAIS), we can answer that question.
Two such standards based exams that we use here at BAIS are the Advanced Placement exams and the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) exams. Our Advanced Placement (AP) end of course exams in 8 different subjects allow students to gain college credit at universities all over the world including the US, Canada, Australia, Korea, Singapore and many other Asian and European countries for classes completed in high school. Students can also become eligible for the prestigious Advanced Placement International Diploma by completing a certain set of these courses. These AP course offerings set us apart in Bandung, no other school offers as many AP courses as we do. That means that our students could walk away from BAIS with their first year of college already completed thanks to our trained AP course instructors who teach each of these courses at a college level.
With the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test that we give two times a year, not only do we see that our students consistently outperform their peers in public and private U.S. and international schools, but, our teachers also get timely and relevant information that they can put to work right away in the classroom to improve their student’s learning experience. Let me give you a timely example. Recently, one of our teachers discovered from looking through the MAP test data that her students showed a pattern of weakness in their ability to create and use of graphs to display and understand information. As a result, she adjusted her instruction and instead of teaching about decimals (an area that the MAP assessment showed they were strong in), she took time to teach about data gathering and graphing. That is putting data into action to help students succeed.
As you make choices about your child’s education remember that quality education is about more than quality facilities and a great name, it is about instruction! Instruction in the classroom can be greatly enhanced if the data collected from formative and summative assessments is used to adjust what is happening on a day to day basis. If you want more information about the top quality, international college preparatory education available at BAIS, call, click or visit today!
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