The value of CAT4 and NGRT with a multi-national student cohort in Malaysia
The International School @ Park City in Kuala Lumpur has students from the age of 4 years in the Nursery to 18 years in the 6th Form. The school broadly follows the English curriculum with students being entered for IGCSE and A-levels. There is an emphasis on high attainment (94% of students achieve A* to C in their IGCSEs) but also on personal development; the Secondary School development plan is focussed on areas identified from CAT4 data, NGRT data and examination results. Presently, these are literacy, Assessment for Learning and thinking skills, and these have become embedded across all learning.
The school uses CAT4 at several key points in order to understand each student’s capabilities and learning profile as they enter and progress through school.
At the time of writing, there are 56 nationalities in the school. The majority of children are Mandarin-speaking Malaysian nationals but around 50% come from around the world; from Australia, America, the UK and Europe as well as significant numbers from China and Korea. The level of proficiency in English varies enormously.
Students tend to be stronger in maths (hence higher than average Quantitative Reasoning scores in CAT4) but some are just beginning to learn English, so reading and Verbal Reasoning may be weak.
The school uses CAT4 at several key points in order to understand each student’s capabilities and learning profile as they enter and progress through school. Admissions are on a rolling basis and the school is growing with new places opening up in every year group each year.
Regular and systematic assessment is key
Whole cohorts are tested with CAT4 in Year 7, Year 10 and Year 12, at the beginning of each Key Stage. This is an opportunity to assess and then reassess both the profile produced by CAT4 and the indicators of future attainment. Head of Secondary, Nicola Lambros, who also oversees the assessment programme, says:
“We consider it vital to assess our secondary students with CAT4 at the start of every Key Stage. This renews the data we hold on their Verbal Reasoning skills and the resulting learning profile but also shows us how, cognitively, students have developed – and they do develop between the ages of 12 and 16. We use the New Group Reading Test every year to monitor progress in literacy, this being one of our main focuses. Also, NGRT offers enough analysis to enable the teacher to identify areas for support and to intervene very precisely. Together CAT4 and NGRT offer an ideal combination and plenty of information about our students.”
On entry to the school each student’s profile from CAT4 is considered carefully. Very often those parts of the test that are not dependent on language can produce very high scores. The mean for Quantitative, Non-Verbal and Spatial Reasoning tends to be significantly higher than 100 and conversely, the Verbal Reasoning score slightly lower.
If a particular student has no English, CAT4 will be administered with one-to-one support so the tasks are clear and children have the best chance of demonstrating their ability in the NVR, Quantitative and Spatial tests. One student entered the school with SAS scores of 141, 136 and 136 for these tests, respectively, and it was on the basis of these scores that he was placed in top sets. Verbal Reasoning was very low (SAS 65) because he had very limited English but within a year his language skills had improved to an extent that enabled him to access the curriculum and begin to achieve at the level indicated by his other tests scores. Knowledge of his very high ability was a real benefit in supporting this student in his language learning.
Understanding that a student has high spatial ability but may have weaker language skills means that teachers can adapt their teaching to accommodate these children – this is so important, especially when a child has just come into school.
Although English is widely spoken in Kuala Lumpur, the global profile of the school’s intake means language support is required for many students. This is provided through dedicated lessons for English Language learners and, vitally, for study skills where key skills such as summarisation, skimming and structuring written work are taught. The focus on literacy throughout every curriculum area (every teacher sees themselves as a teacher of the English Language as well as a teacher of their subject area) and use of the CAT4 Verbal-Spatial profile for lesson planning also supports language improvement in all students.
Impact on teaching and learning
Nicola Lambros continues:
“We expect to see the impact of the CAT4 and NGRT testing in the classroom, and we do. Understanding that a student has high spatial ability but may have weaker language skills means that teachers can adapt their teaching to accommodate these children – this is so important, especially when a child has just come into school. Using pictures, diagrams, film to introduce a topic or new piece of learning rather than relying on lots of verbal information can really make a difference.”
The school uses the CAT4 indicators to calculate value-added and set targets for individual students. Regular use of CAT means targets can be reviewed at the start of every Key Stage. As Verbal Reasoning scores increase with greater proficiency in English, it is often the case that other test scores increase too. This will have an impact on indicators and students will often be expected to raise expectations based on CAT4 between key stages. Children, parents and teachers work towards the ‘if challenged’ targets and in Year 10 the student and parent reports are very useful for communicating what is possible in terms of attainment.
This school gets maximum value from using CAT4 on a regular basis and working with and adapting to profiles which, over time, may change as English is acquired and reasoning through English improves. However, there are additional benefits that go beyond monitoring students with EAL: for all students, the programme of assessment means their learning profile can be re-assessed and attainment targets more closely monitored and amended as necessary. Inclusion of a reading test year-on-year means alongside verbal reasoning, practical, diagnostic information about each student’s reading can be used to inform, not just language development, but reading progress too.