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Assessing Students and Instructional Improvement
by Nellie Deutsch


I interviewed an EFL teacher from Argentina who is also the school's English coordinator. The purpose of the interview was to learn how educational leaders use student assessment for instructional improvement. The interview took place online via email that included an attached Microsoft Word document (see Appendix A) and then via electronic google chat box (see Appendixes B). Although the interviewee had problems accessing the Internet at home and had to go to a nearby gas station to continue the interview, the level of involvement was very high. Both the interviewer and interviewee learned from the experience and exchange of information .

Background of the Interview
The interview took place in a professional manner. The interviewee and interviewer both teach English as a foreign language in their respective countries, Israel and Argentina. The interviewee coordinates the teachers and teaches in a private and very prestigious junior high school. The school has a mixed population of 650 students from kindergarten to secondary school. The school belongs to a private owner who established a foundation with three other Norbridge schools in Argentina. Parents pay a monthly fee for their childrenís education. The school caters to the students' individual needs in order to assure high scholastic level of student achievement .

Background of the Interviewee
The interviewee provided information based on the following request : Please, provide background information on your experiences in assessing students. For example, your role as an educational leader involved in student assessment at the university, number of years, area of assessment, and other information relevant to your work in assessing students .

The interviewee is the coordinator of the English as a foreign language department of the school. The interviewee provides teachers with in-service training, ongoing support, and mentorship. The role as coordinator includes: (a) developing and analyzing student assessments, (b) reporting to parents, school counselor, and homeroom teachers, and (c) searching for ways to facilitate student learning and improve instruction .

Interview Questions:
  1. What criteria do you use to measure student learning ?
  2. What steps do you follow in assessing students? Please explain .
  3. What kind of assessment tools do you use to assess students ?
  4. How do you report assessment results ?
  5. How do you use the results of the assessments ?


Question One
The schoolteachers develop and provide most of summative and informative student assessments throughout the year. According to Wiggins (1993), as long as private schools are doing well without standardized tests, there is not need for high-stakes testing. However, international summative assessments provide the school with norm-referenced standardized tests. The test scores provide information about individual children's learning performance when compared to the learning performance of other children of the same age or same grade, whether in the class, school, district or nation. The information is important to parents if they wish to know where their child stands relative to others of the same age or grade (Popham, 2006 ).

Question Two
After student have drilled and mastered a language skill, teachers decide when and how to provide informative or summative assessments. Every three months, at the end of each term every teacher gives a summative test. At the end of the second term, teachers and coordinators decide which students can ready to take the international exams. Parents receive ongoing reports and feedback about the children's progress. Parents make the final decision as to whether the student will take the international exams. Standardized tests are not mandatory. At the end of the final school term, teachers decide which students need extra remedial and summer courses .

Question Three
Teachers keep track of student progress by observations and note taking throughout the lesson. Students' performance participation, commitment, and attitude act as criteria in student evaluation. Records of students' social skills also play a role in student evaluation. There are ongoing informative assessments both written and oral, which record students' level of understanding and acquisition of skill or content. The content includes language and reasoning capabilities. Teachers may use project work to evaluate students for individual assessments of student performance .

Question Four
Parents receive ongoing reports based on the summative and informative assessments. The reports include test results, participation in class activities and how students function on a daily basis. The information may appear on a report card or in the students' diaries or personal books to inform parents of the students' ongoing progress .

Question Five
Teachers, coordinators, and heads of departments use the results of the assessments to monitor the effectiveness of the curriculum, check whether the teachers achieved the learning goals and decide how to make instructional improvements and if necessary student learning adjustments. In addition, the coordinator checks to see whether there is a correlation between the learners' first language achievement and foreign language progress. Evaluation of students' progress is ongoing with regular reports to parents on the studentís overall performance at school .

Conclusion
Testing is complex process (Alias, 2005). In order to facilitate the process of testing, educational leaders must have clear, measurable expected outcomes of student learning and an evaluation system that gathers, analyzes, and interprets data (Soulsby, 2007). Knowing what to test is crucial to aligning assessment and curriculum content (Hall & Adams, 2007). Interviewing an educational leader provided a better understanding about the kind of decisions leaders need to make when aligning assessment to the curriculum .

References

Alias, M. (2005). Assessment of learning outcomes: Validity and reliability of classroom tests. World Transactions on Engineering and Technology Education, 4(2), 235-237. Retrieved September 19, 2008, from http://www.eng.monash.edu.au Hall, S. S., & Adams, R. A. (2007).A process for assessing standards-based curriculum: Lessons learned from a high school interpersonal relationships curriculum assessment. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 35, 253-259. Retrieved September 19, 2008, from Sage Journals Online .

Popham, W.J. (2006). Assessment for educational leaders. Boston: Pearson .

Soulsby, E. P. (2007, January 4). Assessment notes. Retrieved September 18, 2008, from http://assessment.uconn.edu

Wiggins, G.P. (1993). Assessing student performance: Exploring the purpose and limits of testing. CA: Jossey-Bas .

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