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Q&A: Using ISA data to inform teaching at Southbank International School’s Kensington campus
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Q&A: Using ISA data to inform teaching at Southbank International School’s Kensington campus

Feature 6 minute read

Southbank International School is a leading international school located across several campuses in London, England. Their Kensington School has been using the International Schools’ Assessment (ISA) for over a decade to inform their teaching and programming. We had the opportunity to delve into how the school uses the assessment and reports with Stefanie Waterman, Head of Upper Primary and Grade 4 (Year 5) class teacher.

Could you share a bit about the context of Southbank International School - Kensington?

Southbank International School provides the International Baccalaureate (IB) education for a wide range of 3- to 19-year-olds, who currently come from over 70 countries. We have different sites in central London dedicated to different ages; primary, middle school, high school and one devoted to the final year of the International Baccalaureate.

Who is involved in analysing, interpreting and communicating ISA results across the school?

There are several phases of analysis and communication that happen at our school:

  1. Class teachers look through each individual student to see if there are any surprises or anomalies.
  2. Class teachers and Head of Upper Primary do a gap analysis to evaluate the areas of need to inform our teaching for the following year.
  3. Head of Upper Primary and PYP Coordinator develop data tables and visuals to show progress over time in the various cohorts and years.
  4. A whole school staff meeting is held to tell the whole school about the progress and compare data.
  5. The PYP Coordinator uses the school data to compare Southbank Kensington against other like schools. This is then submitted to the Assistant Director of Education.

Do you find the data provided by ISA reports useful to inform programming and planning?

Yes, the data provided shows individual, cohort and school progress over time.

It helps us to look at where our areas of success and needs are. We use it to plan our next steps in the Strategic Development Plan and to reflect back on the changes in our curriculum we have made.

Can you explain a little more about how ISA is helping to inform overall strategic planning priorities for the leadership team?

The areas of need are discussed in our Upper Primary team meetings with language and mathematics coordinators. This is to see if they actually should be our next step in teaching and learning, or whether we already have systems in place which need more time to implement and have an impact.

If we find that there are areas which are not taught thoroughly enough in the curriculum this is then brought up in our Senior Leadership Team (SLT) meetings with our PYP Coordinator, Deputy Head and Head. We will look at our curriculum and uncover what needs to be done, such as continue with current implemented programs and curricula, or build upon what we have.

If it is decided that there is an area of need the SLT will put it in the Strategic Plan, either for the whole school or in certain grades.

Can you describe an example of how you have used ISA reports to analyse gaps and support progress with teaching and learning?

Over the last few years our narrative writing, which used to be our strength, became an area to focus on with our teaching and learning. About five years ago, as a result of reviewing our ISA narrative writing scores across the school, we noticed a dip. We went back and looked at why our narrative writing over time and compared to other schools may be lower. We noted that student progress had dipped from previous years and that some grades had more of a dip compared to others at our school. We went back to our curriculum and examined our writing spine horizontally and vertically, we talked to classroom teachers and decided to put an emphasis on narrative writing.

The head teachers of both primary campuses and the PYP coordinator made the decision to implement a structured writing program of a two year tutorial to provide teachers with continued professional development (CPD), a common language and a structure to focus on.

Because of the ISA, we can now see the progress in our students’ narrative writing as it swings back to the levels it was previously… so that it is as strong as our persuasive/opinion writing.

As a classroom teacher, how do you identify surprises or anomalies within an individual student’s results? Once these have been identified, what are the next steps?

We use the Individual Student Report as an overall guideline and comparison to our assessments. We have found that the ISA and our assessments are in alignment, which is always a good sign that things are on the right track.

How do you use data, both ISA results and more generally, to evaluate the success of development programs at your school?

We have a wide range of formal and informal assessments which are moderated several times a year. We use an online tracking management system to formally look at student progress in reading, writing and mathematics (arithmetic and reasoning). If we notice there is an area where students are not making the progress expected, or in comparison to local or global expectations, we evaluate our program. For example, we have brought in a new mathematics resource to support our curriculum and are in the process of trialling a year-long science focus.

We use our data to look at where our students may be scoring lower, for example in mathematics we noted that the students’ understanding of maps and directions were weaker in Grade 3 than in other grades. We then looked at when mapping was taught, and it was always after the ISA, therefore we did not change our curriculum.

We score quite high in reading, however we have noted that we scored lower with poems or menu reading. When we looked at why, we saw that the teaching of poetry happened towards the end of the year, thus nearly six to eight months had passed before they revisited it in the ISA. We now have brought poetry reading to our attention and try to read and write poetry throughout the year.

In our EAL and Learning Support teams, the teachers look at the students they teach and ensure that the teaching and learning is in alignment with expectations and assessments in the classroom.

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