About the ISA
The ISA is designed specifically for students in Grades 3–10 in international schools and schools with an international focus, whose language of instruction is English.
Schools use the ISA because:
- it is not specific to a single curriculum;
- it tests core skills in mathematical literacy, reading, writing and scientific literacy;
- the test material is eclectic, drawing on many cultural and national sources;
- the assessments are designed with the knowledge that more than half of the test takers have first languages other than English;
- it includes writing tasks and open-ended questions to better illuminate students’ thinking processes;
- it provides diagnostic information that can be used at the school, class, or individual level;
- performance on the ISA can be related to international benchmarks;
- they can evaluate the reliability of their internal assessments and confirm that they are aligned with international expectations of performance;
- scaled ISA scores enable monitoring of student performance over time; and
- it enables comparison of the results of their Grade 8 ,9 and 10 students with the PISA results for each country that participated in the latest PISA administration.
The ISA improves learning by:
- measuring individual students' achievement in order to reflect on and address strengths and weaknesses;
- monitoring an individual's or group's progress over time;
- evaluating instructional programs against objective evidence of student performance, to diagnose gaps, and to measure growth in learning between grade levels and from year to year within one grade level;
- comparing subgroup performance (for example, girls and boys; students from different language backgrounds) to see where there may be unexpected results and try to understand them; and
- providing normative data in relation to selected populations to ‘see how we are doing'.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) and the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) have an informal agreement to communicate about research projects using the ISA that are of mutual interest.
IB and ACER are mutually interested in investigating what impact, if any, different school programs such as the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) and Middle Years Programme (MYP) have on students' progress, and what kind of impact PYP and MYP programs have on schools and cohorts of students over time. ACER anonymises all data that it shares with the IB to protect individual schools and students.
In 2009 the IB commissioned ACER to report on how PYP and MYP students performed on the ISA. As a follow up to this study, IB again commissioned ACER to further document student performance on the ISA from 2009-11, as well as to investigate perceptions, attitudes and wellbeing of IB students through student questionnaires. The findings of these studies and the research summaries and reports have been released .
A further research study was completed recently.