Using CAT to raise expectations
Expectations of students’ attainment particularly in English had been modest. [...] However, the verbal deficit [...] proved not to be such a pressing issue so students now are entered for First Language qualifications in both English Language and Literature.
Our final case study is a group of schools that includes international schools and schools offering the country’s local national curriculum. Children from Kindergarten to Sixth Form are educated and take a range of qualifications including IGCSE, AS and A-levels. Children are taught in English and where teaching in the local language is a requirement (maths and science) subjects are taught bilingually.
The Cognitive Abilities Test: 3rd Edition (CAT3) was introduced by the Head of Curriculum in 2011 as part of a whole-school improvement initiative and a drive to better understand the students’ capabilities. Before this, assessment was limited to end-of-year school tests. It was felt, and so it proved, that deepening understanding of students’ abilities through the use of CAT would demonstrate to the school community that the children were capable of higher attainment.
Assessing what really matters
CAT is used when students enter one of the schools within the group and is very suitable because it is not connected to any curriculum but instead looks at the abilities that support academic success. Parameters are set in advance due to the expectation that, for most students, there would be a verbal discrepancy.
The Head of Curriculum says:
“Expectations of students’ attainment particularly in English had been modest. For example, at age 16 students were entered for the Cambridge English Second Language IGCSE. However, the verbal deficit, as shown through CAT, proved not to be such a pressing issue so students now are entered for First Language qualifications in both English Language and Literature.”
This meant teaching programmes were strengthened and has led to up to 92% of students gaining a pass in these subjects at A* to C.
CAT4 is now in use and administered in Year 4, Year 6 and Year 9. It has proved an effective way of looking at performance. For students following the English curriculum target setting is straightforward. For children following the local curriculum, a simple conversion is undertaken to create targets to match the local grading system. As we have seen in the earlier case, regular use of CAT4 means the developing verbal reasoning skills of students with EAL can be closely tracked and targets amended as these skills improve. This was found to give very accurate predictions which could also be used for the school and teaching staff.
A whole school approach for every school in the group
In this group of schools, CAT4 has been used as an improvement tool for the whole of each school and has had far-reaching benefits in demonstrating through the outcomes and particularly the indicators, that expectations had been too low. Introducing robust data that can be refreshed on a regular basis has meant that students are being challenged academically and achieving at a higher level.
CAT was introduced to a system which did not have a history of standardised testing and so the concept, the data and how to interpret and implement results was new to almost everyone. However, within 2 years, CAT could be used with confidence to support students’ learning.