Potential and Performance – Why ‘Value Added’ Matters

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Head's Blogs

‘Value Added’ is a measure of the progress students make between different stages of education.  The following extract from ‘Ed.’, the Cheadle Hulme School magazine, explores the ways in which we evaluate student potential and monitor performance over time:

JLOC2482From the first day at CHS, whether it is as a 4 year-old in Reception, an 11 year-old in Year 7 or a 16 year-old in the Sixth Form, we monitor each child’s working habits and progress.  Our aim is to ensure that we do all that we can to help every student achieve their best.

Aptitude tests designed by Durham University’s Centre for Evaluating and Monitoring (CEM) are taken in Year 7, Year 11 and the Lower Sixth.  They attempt to reveal potential by examining verbal, non-verbal and quantitative reasoning.  They are designed to measure ability and aptitude for learning rather than achievement and what has been ‘taught’ in School.  The tests are intended to provide a measure of ‘typical’ performance which can be used to give an expected level of attainment, student by student, subject by subject.

Such data has value and can offer insight, but it rarely tells the full story – we are, each one of us, much more than a set of figures assigned to us at a single point following a single test. It does offer us a starting point from which we can gauge how well each child is doing, but rarely is a child ‘typical’, so seeing the data as a strict predictor of future performance is wholly misleading.

JLOC8341 - Version 2Education is a people business and here at Cheadle Hulme School we value the professional opinion and understanding of our teachers just as much as, if not more than, the outcomes or predictions of tests; our teachers use their invaluable experience of young people and their observations of each individual in the classroom to contribute to the picture we gather of that student’s academic potential.

In addition to CEM, the CHS Senior School has begun to develop its own tracking system which, viewed alongside the test data, can indicate the added value that a CHS education can offer.

Statistics based on data collected nationwide show that at GCSE, CHS students will achieve an average of half a grade higher per subject than the national norm.  Such value-added is due to excellent teaching, a strong pastoral system and a culture of effort and reward.

Head of Upper School and History Teacher, Mr Peter Tann explains: “I view the test data as just one of the tools in my ‘teacher toolbox’.  The baseline figure I receive from the test is the focal point when reviewing a pupil, but this is often the bluntest tool.  It can mask significant weaknesses in just one area and doesn’t take into account working habits and more importantly what’s happening around the student at home or with their peers, which can have such a huge influence on their performance.

JLOC9304 - Version 2I like to look at all the hard data, drill down into the specific areas of the tests but then look at it again with my ‘pastoral hat’ on before I draw any conclusion.  The true picture of a student’s progress can be very different when you look at the broader context and what’s happening in that student’s life at the time.

Input from colleagues is also vital – those who know the students well, often their Form Tutors, are a crucial part of the jigsaw.  Professional judgement from teachers is often proven to be more accurate than a set of statistics.”

Head, Lucy Pearson

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