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Why 4,000 Schools Believe Target Tracker is the Ideal Tracking System

Stephen Leatherdale is a Target Tracker helpline and support officer for EES for Schools. Stephen has worked in the education industry for 25 years and has experience in teaching and leadership in primary schools. Stephen addresses how measuring pupil achievement through allocating a numerical standard is a vital process for schools.

One of the joys of developing a pupil progress tracking system is that the greater number of users who interact with it, the greater number of ways there become to use the system to deliver tangible results. As a consequence of this, the demands on a system and its development are threefold: the educational environment in which it has to operate, the requirements of the IT that has to drive it and the requirements of the schools who use it.

Target Tracker has a large customer base which provides us with a rich vein of feedback. When developing the software and our assessment approach, it is the subject of great pride and principle that this feedback is included in the programming. However, it is important to maintain a balance with the other two factors that influence development. In a fast-moving and ever-changing, education system, Target Tracker has been based around those elements that are always present. Furthermore, it has been important to maintain a system which is based on technology that most schools will have and will be able to use successfully.

The feedback schools have given has been used to change the software since its first release. These changes have been about increasing flexibility and ensuring schools gain the maximum value from the data entered. This piece will explore the ways in which Target Tracker has been improved in order to provide the maximum benefit to schools.

1. Flexible statement sets

In 2014, Target Tracker began by using the Programmes of Study as the basis for formative assessment. As these would be constant, it meant that by using these statements, schools would be assured of curriculum coverage and also be confident in any summative judgement reached. Analysis of Big Data and the projections of Age-Related attainment have shown that this system does indeed allow schools to make accurate judgements.

However, the component skills of the Programmes of Study produce a lot of statements. Ever mindful of helping to manage workload, Target Tracker enables schools to identify their own essential statements. As such, the number of statements can be reduced into a Statement Group and judgements can be made against only those the school sees as important. Indeed, a school can create multiple focused statement groups to suit different purposes - for example, identified areas of weakness in a particular year group or focus areas for specific intervention strategies. This reduces the amount of assessments against statements a teacher need make in order to form a judgement about pupil attainment. Further to this, Target Tracker does not require any statement assessment to make a judgement about pupil attainment.

This approach offers a consistent framework to lay a basis for assessment whilst also having the flexibility schools need. Alternative statement sets have been entered into the software, based on published schemes or those designed by schools, and we believe this offers the flexibility and rigour schools expect from Target Tracker.

2. Summative assessment 

Target Tracker has an established record of tracking assessment that goes back more than fifteen years. In beginning the transition to assessment post Levels, Steps were chosen as a recognisable description of attainment which would help schools become accustomed to the new way of working. Furthermore, in terms of calibrating our own system, it provided useful meta-data that helped us understand where pupils needed to be to meet the End of Key Stage standards.

The labels given to Steps remain and still form the basis of description. However, the way in which they can be regarded and used as an understanding of attainment has been refined. There is a greater emphasis on regarding each Step as age-related and the software has a greater number of reports that reflect on real-time assessment rather than viewing pupils on a linear scale. However, schools use Target Tracker in a wide variety of ways. Some schools favour the transparency of Steps ‘out of the box’ and benefit from how that gives a commonality to data, aiding accountability and the comparison of standards. Other schools have fully embraced an Age-Related model, focusing on a colour coded system derived from an age-related matrix. We aim to meet both these methodologies, maintaining the labels whilst also facilitating the use of Age-Related and supporting Point-in-Time assessments.

3. Teaching and assessing what is being taught

Our maxim on what to assess when? Simple. We actively support assessing what is being taught. Whether that be content from anywhere in the Programme of Study, the assessment is made in the same way. Through the use of progress reports, statement overviews and assessment conversion metrics, the way in which the pupil’s learning is viewed is not dependent upon a label suggesting they are above, at or below the expected standard. Instead, progress and attainment can be treated as independent descriptions of learning, depending upon the report that is being used. This means that Target Tracker will always report all progress, regardless of which age band the pupil is being assessed against; progress and attainment can be described by Steps which are normally used for younger pupils. As Target Tracker will never enforce the use of a Step decided by the pupil’s age, a pupil will never appear to be ‘stuck’ as the assessment model relies on teacher decisions, not an artificial and limited formula.

4. Comparing test and teacher assessment data

If you are to arrive at a fully rounded view of a child’s learning, it is useful to use and correlate multiple resources - Target Tracker entry and analysis of test results, both statutory and any a school may choose to make use of as part of ongoing assessment processes. Test scores can be entered and viewed alongside teacher assessments. They may also be used to derive charts and to add further context to reports. This means that assessment is visible all in one place by whatever means it was derived.

5. Reporting

Ensuring the reports and analysis tools have a clear purpose, focus and ease of understanding is a task taken very seriously by the Target Tracker development team. As alluded to earlier in this piece, the ways in which people wish to analyse and use data varies widely between schools and people’s job roles within them. However, one thing remains prevalent: the reporting needs to inform and shape teaching and learning.

To this end, both the Age Related Expectation Summary and the Assessment Conversion reports cover the essential assessment and progress data. Target Tracker uses the Assessment Conversion report to show at which assessment pupils began a particular stage of their school life whilst also showing where they were assessed at the end of the period. This report measures attainment and allows a school to ensure they are on-track to achieve the intended attainment.

The Age-Related Expectation Summary offers a view of pupil attainment as a view of which pupils were assessed at, above or below the expected standard. Furthermore, this is available as a summary based on key groups. This can be used as a tool to measure impact; school leaders can ask strategic questions in order to measure their school’s performance. For example, they might ask ‘Are certain individuals or groups of pupils remaining on-track?’ Alternatively, they may ask ‘Have interventions improved the percentage of pupils on-track for a cohort?’

We know that customers find each of our active reports useful. Although some may be used by fewer people they have all been challenged to the extent that they can form part of a model of best practice. Again, our customers’ feedback is essential in deciding when a report is useful as well as providing blueprints to come up with improvements.

As a team we recognise that no tracking system is ever complete. The changing face of education and those imposed by central government alone see to that. But our own desire to deliver a system that can truly make a difference ensures that Target Tracker continues to evolve. Our continued collaboration with our wide customer base confirms the knowledge that Target Tracker can be used for the collection and, more importantly, the use of assessment data to prepare pupils for the next stage in learning – whether that be for individual pupils, group or at a whole class level.