Lazy Summer?

By Chris Jarosh

When I first started teaching my friends were quite envious of me at this time of year, thinking I had a long easy run to the end of term with no Year 11s or 13s to teach and the prospect of a lazy summer ahead. Even if I thought that when I originally went into teaching, the myth was quickly dispelled!

On my recent visits to schools teachers have reminded me that these last few weeks are bustling with the completion of assessments for this year and designing new ones for next, analysing data, creating reports, and planning and preparation for the new academic year. And, of course, finding time to get involved in those extra-curricular activities.

In these last few weeks, Star Assessments from Renaissance – perhaps better known for Accelerated Reader – can help reduce teacher workload as you won’t have to spend them designing assessments. Star can be used as the prepared test across year groups and, because it’s computer-adaptive, is suitable for every range of ability. As the tests are automatically marked there are significant time savings: no data input is required and teachers can spend their valuable time interpreting the results to inform teaching.

Student progress can be easily tracked using the range of reports in the system. Growth reports can be generated over time, and schools can define its parameters: by individual, class or group. Progress can be tracked against an annual target either set by Star or by the teacher. The dashboard can be used to track individual or group progress and compare with national norms.

Now that ‘age related expectations’ have crept into our vocabulary, it’s important to be able to prove students are meeting them. Age related expectations are reported in Star by reading age, percentile rank, norm referenced standardised score, which shows attainment as compared with children of a similar age nationally, and a scaled score from 0-1400.

There’s always an OFSTED visit on the horizon, and Renaissance can help with accountability measures. Using Star will help to identify starting points for students: tests can be administered at regular intervals, even half termly, as there are no limits on usage, so you can track and measure progress easily. Tests can also be taken regularly because the system will not present the same question more than once for at least 90 days, and the wide range of item difficulty picks up where the student ‘left off’.

Star is especially helpful when identifying those students who would benefit from intervention support. Progress can be tracked by pupil characteristics, for example by pupil premium, EAL or special educational needs. Data is displayed in a format which is both school friendly and easily presentable to OFSTED. Some schools also find it helpful to use Star to validate their own teacher assessments.

Why not investigate the benefits of using Star Assessments before the end of term? Star provides accurate data about what students know and what they are ready to know next. Tests can be taken frequently, at any time, and most students complete within 20 minutes. Results from tests are immediate and the suggested skills can be used to inform planning and teaching.

So, you don’t need to spend the rest of the term – or even the summer – planning, marking and data crunching. Enjoy the break and have a lazy summer.

Whether you are already use Renaissance software, or are completely new to it, you can learn more about Star Assessments for reading and maths with a personalised, online demonstration that can take place at your convenience. For details, call 020 7184 4040 or visit

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