Assessment of children s educational achievements in early childhood education

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1 Assessment of children s educational achievements in early childhood education purpose pedagogic and managerial of such assessments. This paper outlines the evaluation of a national pilot baseline assessment scheme in Scotland. Based views were sought by means of a questionnaire about the operation and value nine primary school teachers and four headteachers. A majority of those who participated in the scheme welcomed the professional judgement approach but The term Baseline Assessment has recently been introduced into the education having a dual purpose: 1. to provide information on children s educational attainment and help teachers plan effectively to meet children s individual learning needs (the pedagogic which can be used in later value-added analysis of children s progress (the managerial imperative). previous Conservative Government in its drive to raise educational standards. It emphasised the importance of establishing formal records of children s learning at the start of primary school as a means of assessing and improving standards. The early years education and the funding of early intervention strategies. The emphasis on assessment in the early years was an inevitable development forefront of the debate about how best to help all children learn effectively at the be informed about the educational progress being made by children. 33

2 a method of assessing children on entry to P1 should be devised In response to this recommendation two initial projects were commissioned Interchange No. 55 to develop and pilot a baseline assessment scheme for use in pre-school centres and et al to test its viability. Of central importance in Baseline Assessment is the breadth of children s learning tests per se the desirability for value-added information has recently been further endorsed by posed interesting challenges for the scheme developers. of piloting were to assess the manageability of the scheme in the practical classroom et al. et al. (2001). and also presents the results of the practitioners scheme evaluation. 1 It focused on the assessment of pupils with respect to each of eight Aspects of Learning :

3 Reading Writing Mathematics Understanding the Environment Curriculum Framework for Children in their Preschool Year 5-14 National Curriculum Guidelines was made in order to avoid the perception amongst the raters that the Features were assessing each child. the pilot survey was conducted before the related survey at the pre-school stage. would be included in the pre-school version of the scheme. Those Features which pre-school stage were separated from the rest by a dotted line. Only for Listening & Talking were there no below-the-line Features. A handful of Features were added requested to use colour coding to indicate their judgments about Feature demonstration: The child displays very few of these Features. Immediate investigation and structured intervention are essential. (Rating - 1) The child displays some of these Features. Most others require attention and planned support. (Rating - 2) good progress with most of the others. (Rating - 3) The child displays almost all of these Features consistently and with

4 of Physical Co-ordination Mathematics at the pre-school nurseries and voluntary pre-school centres. While the pre-school establishments The two pupil samples closely resembled each other (and their respective right-handed. A small proportion at each stage were registered as having special Since the assessment scheme was totally dependent on the professional judgement of accessed by a substantial questionnaire to all those who completed the assessment in the implementation of the assessments and which they thought were worth noting. The questionnaire covered: the general approach to Baseline Assessment staff involvement in the pilot procedures the content of the record the assessment process staff support the value of the assessments the possible role of parents recommendations and conclusions

5 Interviews were held with nine teachers and four headteachers of nine of the interviews. Staff attitudes to the general approach and to their own involvement based on the on-going learning and teaching activities of the classroom. Of those who appreciated the fact that the Record covered the whole range of learning. A few on staff collaboration: where the child is at a given time. sense a threat and provides an opportunity to build on what is already being The one head teacher who was negative was particularly critical of the fact that the scheme did not provide what she understood as baseline information. She was sceptical of the intention to build on pre-school assessments as she saw the latter as idealistic and overestimating children s ability. This head teacher thought that primary schools needed a Baseline Assessment at the beginning adequately. Seven of the pre-school staff who returned the questionnaire confessed to feeling daunted not only by the scale of the project but also by the degree of leader commented: I felt out of my depth but I collaborated with my colleague. The There were some reservations among pre-school staff in particular about formal assessment of children at this stage: I cannot help but feel the children are being labelled in the attainment statements section and we are one step away from grading them at this early stage. pre-school practitioners was that the Record seemed impersonal and had no place to indicate progress: child comes out as a tick rather than an individual. Other Content of the Record constructive suggestions for change. Almost all practitioners considered the Record

6 The Features were on the whole thought to be relevant to their pupils by most Writing Some respondents thought a distinction should be made between what children did for Expressive Communication, while almost three quarters wanted some of the Physical Co-ordination. Half alarm parents. The Attainment Statements were much less positively viewed by the pre-school A small number suggested that the Feature highlighting might eliminate any need for Attainment Statements. personal details. Although the language used in the Record and accompanying practitioners were unfamiliar with the style and confused by it. Some also thought children and children for whom English was an additional language) were also their own children (see later section). The assessment process and teacher support a small number of the practitioners had reservations at this pre-implementation and reassurance. Some of the practitioners claimed to be more positive when they negative when they realised the scale of what was involved. 38

7 of those interviewed commented unfavourably on the amount of time required to used to the process. their professional judgement. About one third of the pre-school staff claimed that the information was already available to them and that this is similar to our own assessments. Mathematics was the easiest Aspect Personal, Emotional and Social Development was the easiest. Finding evidence for Understanding the Environment and Expressive Communication proved problematic for almost half of Personal, Emotional and Social Development Physical Co-ordination easiest. Finding evidence for Understanding the Environment and Mathematics Almost all the respondents in both groups found the assessment demanding. Just within the course of their daily activities. The lower child:staff ratios in pre-school In response to a question about the degree of support offered by the teachers the ambiguities resolved. Virtually all argued that if the whole process were to be development would be vital. teachers said that this support had been very helpful. Colleagues who gave support in both lightened the load and provided new insights on children. half by support from parents. During the assessment they had been variously assisted practitioners said they would have welcomed more support from parents. if the task were to be done properly that the pilot had put particular stress on them as it had had to be completed in a very

8 practitioners might be too generous in their assessment of pre-school children. For regard. Throughout the pre-school establishments there were concerns that the range them. It was clear that some felt staff who were not professionally trained might Attainment Statements in the same way: I am not discriminating against the voluntary/private sectors but I worry about Even within our nursery with only two teachers the various assessments were The value of the assessments made the point: assumptions about children in the group that perhaps are not warranted. Just under half of each practitioner group claimed that they had learned something new about a particular child. They had either found surprising strengths or had the school and the education authority. At least half the respondents in each group thought that the value for the child was that it highlighted the child s strengths and

9 responded in relation to the education authority saw Baseline Assessment as aiding some cases. A few mentioned the danger of parents comparing their children with or the education authority. Where these were mentioned they revolved around issues of cost and resources. three pre-school staff opted not to respond to the question. comments from teacher interviews. The role and perceptions of parents It was always the assumption of the research and development team that the Baseline should be involved. Those who wanted parental involvement felt it would provide parents should be given a copy of the completed form. Special Interest Groups Baseline Assessment welcomed this opportunity to be included in a mainstream

10 their primary departments as they felt this gave them an opportunity to assess each child s progress and to comment on the appropriate changes necessary for future evaluations and observations. and for an older child on admission to the school. The specialists felt that individual pupils to sustain progress in Features that had been taught there was often little arrangements would need to be made to obtain as fair and valid an assessment as might be. Versions of the Record should be available in a wide range of languages. child s preferred language then the help of parents should be sought. areas of the curriculum. It was also seen to be a potentially useful tool for reporting to its value for their own professional development. The most serious general reservations were in terms of teacher variability and teachers and pre-school practitioners to be of vital importance to the development

11 available. All felt this level of support important to ensure the minimum of teacher/ and between pre-school and primary school. THE WAY AHEAD the assessment of young children s educational achievements adopted in this scheme by concluding that any future national system will need to continue to be based on element be introduced into the scheme to enhance reliability and consistency. In a role of formative assessment in the formulation of policy at national level. The Consultation Document recognises the need to address the value-added dimension of assessment as well as the pedagogic dimension: If assessment information is to be used to help primary schools to estimate starting point for data collection so that the early contribution of the early The Document then raises the possibility of having a dual system of assessment at national level to address the two functions pedagogic and managerial by different means. Responses to the consultation process have now been analysed (Hayward et al value-added purpose should not dominate the pedagogic purpose. The response of government concerning the way forward is now awaited. many Scottish local authorities: common baseline is therefore problematic. clarity and consistency in interpretation.

12 Oxford Review of Education Assessment in Early Childhood Education Chapman. Improving Assessment in Scotland of Glasgow. Review of Assessment in the Pre-school and 5-14 Edinburgh: HMI. Curriculum and Assessment in Scotland: National Guidelines. The Structure and Balance of the Curriculum 5-14 Improving Achievement in Scottish Schools. The Government s Response to the Report of the Task Force on Underachievement in Scottish Schools. Edinburgh: SOEID. A Curriculum Framework for Children in their Pre-school Year. Edinburgh: SOEID. The Early Intervention Programme : Raising Standards in Literacy and Numeracy. Edinburgh: SOEID. Scottish Education Statistics Annual Review 3, Edinburgh: SOEID. Targeting Excellence Modernising Scotland s Schools Early Education The Current Debate Baseline Assessment A Literature Review of Glasgow. Interchange The Development of Baseline Assessment in Scotland : Pilot Procedures Assessment in Education Baseline Assessment : A Review of Current Practice, Issues and Strategies for Effective Implementation Baseline Assessment. to indicate their marginal relevance to education at this stage: pre-school staff were nevertheless invited to rate pupils demonstration of these Features by indicating are presented in the order in which they appeared in the scheme at the pre-school Separates readily from parent/carer

13 Is developing relationships with adults and other children Remembers and observes rules Demonstrates appropriate levels of concentration Responds appropriately to instructions.. Cooperates with others in pair/group/class situations (Can use the body safely in physical activity in a range of different ways) Controls and coordinates own body in physical activity Controls/manipulates small tools and equipment effectively.. Listens to and reproduces beat and rhythm movement (Listens to other children and adults during social activity and play) Listens attentively to follow thread of story/discussion

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