PISA-Based Test for Schools
Your report - using the report for school improvement
Using the report within your school
Your report will enable you to understand how well your students compare with their peers nationally and around the world, in terms of a globally-based assessment (rather than a curriculum-specific assessment). This gauge of how prepared your students are to succeed in a global economy will help you set locally-appropriate targets to meet your students’ present and future needs (whether these are within or beyond local and national expectations). Those targets need not relate only to the minority of students achieving at the very highest standard overall, but could include targets aimed at all students, or specific subsets of students, in the whole-school context. For example, targets might:
- relate to raising overall achievement across all the subjects assessed by PISA-Based Test for Schools, in the global context;
- aim to bring overall achievement in a weaker subject in line with that of the stronger subject(s);
- address the needs of a subset of students, such as: those who perform at or below the lower PISA proficiency levels; those who are performing satisfactorily but, international research suggests, might do better; those at the higher levels of achievement but perhaps not yet achieving their full potential; or other groups based on your school’s student profile and community;
- aim to improve students’ perceptions and attitudes (e.g. in relation to their confidence and motivation);
- address the learning environment, celebrating strengths and exploring areas that might be developed further.
Some specific examples are outlined below (in relation to learning outcomes, the learning environment, adding value, and international outcomes), but please do not feel bound by these examples: the possibilities are many and, by using your school’s report to start a professional conversation about needs within your context, you can find ways to meet local needs and extend your school’s existing successes. The resulting improvements might be transformative or incremental. Nevertheless, set in the local context and guided by a wider perspective, they may assist your students in achieving their potential to an internationally competitive standard.
Improving learning outcomes
Your school’s headline findings will enable you to evaluate how your students did in reading, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy relative to your school’s expectations, national expectations and international levels of achievement. This can complement and extend the information you gain from other forms of assessment, since the PISA-Based Test for Schools may assess different skill sets than those represented in your national or local curriculum, and will indicate to you how well prepared your students are to take their place as adults in the global economy.
If your school has a specialism or particular curricular focus, you might want to consider whether your results are consistent with that focus and, if so, what the implications of that are for other subjects. Conversely, you might need to consider why your results are less consistent than expected relative to any specialism, and review accordingly.
You may find the descriptions of what students can do at the different PISA proficiency levels helpful in evaluating whether there are systemic or classroom-based changes you might want to make (in one subject or in all three) in order to raise, deepen, or broaden your students’ understanding, and to challenge your students further. This might apply in terms of raising achievement in general, or you might use your results as a starting point in identifying particular areas that seem to present challenges for your students (you might decide, for example, to refocus attention on particular topics or skills, if poor proficiency in these might be acting as a block to further progress).
You might notice patterns across the three assessed subjects (or in two of the subjects), that might prompt you to identify and share good practice across subject departments, develop different approaches to teaching transferable skills, or review other curriculum areas within your school that might benefit from what you have learned.
Alternatively, you might want to focus on particular groups of students, e.g. aiming to raise achievement among the world-class students in your school or using your results as a stimulus towards exploring how schools internationally enable their average or below-average students to achieve their full potential. The headline findings will also enable you to analyse the overall performance of your male students compared with your female students. Is your school serving boys and girls equally well in terms of their achievement or could you aim to learn from other schools or nations in order to narrow (or eliminate) any gender divide?
There are many ways of using the results in your school’s report in order to improve student outcomes, and your results will help you to identify those most relevant to your own school context.
Focusing on the learning environment
Your school’s report will include an overview of your students’ perceptions about discipline and the learning environment (including relations between students and teachers), compared with the equivalent data for schools in the UK as a whole. You can use this information as the basis for reviewing and, as applicable, aiming to improve the learning climate in your school. This may lead to further sharing of good practice within and across departments.
Since your report will also show the relationship between students’ perceptions and their achievement, for your school and for similar schools in the UK, it will allow you to explore any notable differences and aid your efforts to maximise value-added for your students. It might be useful to compare your school with similar schools that have, for example, higher achievement but a similar or less positive disciplinary climate, to try and tease out what makes the difference. Alternatively, you might consider what could be learned from schools that have similar or lower achievement but a more positive disciplinary climate.
Your school’s ‘reader profiles’ will indicate the types of reading habits and strategies that your students display and how this corresponds to their achievement. Being able to compare this with the national and international equivalents will enable your school to consider questions such as: Do your students follow the same profiling pattern as seen in the comparison countries? How does the performance of each profile group compare with that of the other countries? Are there any countries about which it is worth seeking further information? What might be the reasons for any observed differences? Are there lessons that could be learned to improve the performance of all students or selected groups of your students, not just in reading but in other subjects where information-processing is a key skill?
Information about your students’ perceptions of their self-efficacy will give you insights into the types of mathematics and science topics about which they feel less confident (as well as those they approach with confidence). Some might be areas which teachers already know that students find difficult, or the report might highlight new areas for improvement. In either case, your report can start a conversation about why students might feel less confident in these areas (taking into account the nature of the given topic, the pace at which it has been taught, breadth and depth, prior experience, and so on), and this may lead to a search for effective strategies to help students improve in these areas. Outcomes related to self-efficacy might also be useful in reviewing the teaching of other subjects that share similar characteristics (e.g. in terms of content, or underlying skills, or students’ perceptions of the accessibility or nature of the subjects).
In addition to reviewing teaching in light of your students’ reported self-efficacy, your report will enable you to consider the gap in achievement between those of your students who are most and least confident. The same will be possible for your most and least motivated students. The size of the score gap for each of mathematics and science will be shown and you will be able to use this as a starting point to consider how to close the gap. Are there possible connections between students’ various answers in this section that might help explain some of the differential performance? Does the data suggest any strategies that might help to close the gap (e.g. might changes to the teaching environment be required, or might peer tutoring or investigation within your local educational network/federation appear to be better approaches in your context?)
Because your report will take account of the socio-economic profile of your school, you will be able to compare how well your school is serving its students in relation to the PISA performance of other schools in the UK. Questions you might ask could include: Are other schools achieving better results despite having a similar or lower socio-economic profile among their students? What might you learn from such schools? Are there any clues in the research findings included with your report that might help you explore this area further? Is your school achieving better results than similar schools? Why might this be? Could you share/publicise ideas from your school that might benefit other schools?
Equally, analysing what your school is doing well may provide information that could prompt greater achievement within your own school (for all students or for particular groups of students), even if average achievement is already relatively high in all three subjects. In addition, the report could be used to compare your students’ performance across the three subjects. Is your school achieving better or worse outcomes, relative to socio-economic status, in one subject compared with the others? Why might this be? Are there actions you could take to match your school’s highest standard in one subject across the other assessed subjects? Are there any potential implications of this across other subjects more generally in your school?
Learning from international outcomes
Findings in this area will enable you to compare your school at a more detailed level with schools in higher and lower performing countries. A school’s report might show, for example, that it has a mean subject score at close to the national average yet a narrower distribution of achievement than is the case nationally, or it might show that the school has more students at the higher levels of proficiency than another country, but does less well with relatively disadvantaged students compared with schools in that country. Other comparisons might show that the school has a solid distribution of students at PISA levels 2, 3 and 4 but, relative to other countries, few or no students at the highest international proficiency levels. Such findings go beyond simplistic conclusions about average test score and may allow you to tease out more complex or subtle effects at work in your school. This may prompt reflection, discussion, and the use of related information to evaluate possible reasons, seeking new strategies for improvement.
Alternatively, your school might be pleased to find that your mean score exceeds that of even the highest performing country. You may congratulate yourself on that fact, wonder what it is that you have done well and seek to isolate those factors so that you can export them to other areas of learning. You might also then notice that, although your school outperforms that high-performing country’s mean score, there are nevertheless a large number of schools within that country that have outperformed your school. This might prompt you to consider what those countries might have done differently that could work for your school, to further improve your student outcomes.
Whatever your results, there will be useful information within these comparisons that can inform your school’s future direction and development. Examples in your report showing how education systems have addressed school improvement and low performance may also be helpful in informing your school’s strategy for improvement.
Using your report in a network/federation
If your school has participated in PISA-Based Test for Schools as part of a network or federation of schools, you may already have decided to share your results with your partner schools. In that case, the ideas given in the “...within your school” section will still apply but can be supplemented by conversations about similarities and differences in outcomes across the network/federation, possible reasons for these, and potentially useful strategies for improvement. The background research findings given in your report(s) will also inform your discussions and might provide additional starting points for further exploring areas of interest.
If your school is part of a network/federation but your partner schools have not participated in PISA-Based Test for Schools, you might still consider sharing your results and seeking reflections from your partners. They might have insights that vary from your own, which could prompt further useful development points, or further avenues for consideration, that might ultimately help to strengthen your school’s performance.
You might also like to consider sharing your report (or elements of it) with key stakeholders (such as your local authority/education board or academy provider/other provider, governing body/governing board/trustees, parents, and students), perhaps to demonstrate success or to explain proposed changes.