• CATs may put a ‘glass ceiling’ on the academic progression of Year 7 children

    960 640 Stuart O'Brien

    CATs may put a ‘glass ceiling’ on the academic progression of Year 7 children

     A new study commissioned by UK education technology firm Zzish claims that Cognitive Ability Tests (CATs) taken by Year 7 children at the beginning of secondary school as a measurement of intelligence and a predictor of GCSE grades may put a ‘glass ceiling’ on academic ability and potential.

    Nearly three quarters (70 per cent) of Year 7 teachers use the test results to inform level of support given to both the most needy and most adept of pupils, yet only eight per cent believe CATs are very accurate at predicting eventual GCSE performance.

    The research also found that 68 per cent of teachers feel demoralised and unmotivated in their job from not being able to help most students outperform their CATs predicted grades.

    Four out of five (79 per cent) secondary school teachers believed that may be putting a glass ceiling over children’s ability and potential.

    One rationale for this is because teaching programmes that are heavily informed by CATs results, at best, only ensure that grade predictions (e.g. C and B grades) are fulfilled rather than exceeded (A and A* grades).

    CATs tests are generally regarded in the industry as having a high level of validity – that is, it’s believed that 95 per cent of the time, the results and predictions it yields for pupils’ academic progress and performance five years later is said to be accurate based on a census of over 500 UK secondary school teachers. Three quarters (75 per cent) of secondary school teachers who teach Year 7 who use student progress against CATs predictions in order to decide which students to focus their teaching efforts on, say they do so to ensure underachieving pupils get back on track to attain national average levels of achievement across core curricular subjects. Yet only eight per cent believe unequivocally in its accuracy.

    Nearly all in this group (94 per cent) believed that – as part of a strategy to improve academic performance – education technology had the potential to enhance both children’s enjoyment of learning and their enjoyment of teaching – thereby significantly increasing positive outcomes.

    “The CATs system was well intended, but we have inadvertently designed a system around them that reinforces student predictions rather than one that aims to excel them. Students who are behind on predicted progress are given extra help to catch up whereas those that are on track are left alone,” commented Charles Wiles, CEO of Zzish.

    “Whilst predictions can add value to our teaching they should not be used to set a glass ceiling on achievement. All children of all abilities should be encouraged to achieve their full potential no matter what their predictions say. To do this we must design systems focused on this mission. The Education Endowment Foundation, for example, has carried out research that shows techniques such as mastery-based learning, meta-cognition and self-regulation can have a tremendous impact on helping students progress faster.

    “At Zzish we are focused on encoding these and other discoveries into software tools for teachers so that they can more easily apply these techniques in the classroom, save time and help their students achieve more. For example, Zzish makes it much easier for teachers to differentiate their teaching resulting in students of all abilities achieving improvements of 8-10 per cent in standardised test scores for science. And our mastery dashboards are automatically populated by playing fun classroom quiz games saving teachers hours of time each week in tracking student progress against learning objectives.”

    Today, 80,000 teachers from 110 countries and a million students currently use the education app alongside its formative assessment app Quizalize [http://www.quizalize.com]. Last year, Zzish was a finalist in the Teach Secondary’s Technology & Innovation Awards 2016 for its role in improving standards of teaching and learning at Key Stages 3 and 4 during the 2015/16 academic year. One school professed that it has improved test scores by 10% in six months. It is also a finalist in this year’s E-Assessment Awards for Best Use Of Formative Assessment. In 2015, Zzish was shortlisted as an EdTech 20 startup in recognition of its innovation and growth, selected as a Future 30 business at the Bett Show 2015, and also one of only two edtech startups accepted on the 2014 TechStars London program from a pool of 1,200 applicants.


    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien

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