Outstanding student progress at The International School of Penang (Uplands)

Posted on 23rd Feb 2022 in School News, Malaysia

The International School of Penang (Uplands) is delighted to share their outstanding student progress in the Primary and Middle School.

The Coronavirus pandemic has continued to bring challenges to educators and students. With the continued disruption caused by school closures over the last 18 months, there has been worldwide concern on the impact this pandemic is having on the students and their learning. At Uplands, to provide the best educational experience, we have done our utmost in being adaptive during these difficult times in order to allow us to continue to provide the academic excellence that our school community is accustomed to.

Standardised Testing at Uplands

As these are exceptional times, it is especially crucial to monitor the progress of our students to ensure that we do indeed provide the best education for our students. Standardised benchmarking tools allow us to evaluate our students’ learning and help us to plan our strategies and interventions in supporting our students moving forward. The standardised benchmarking tests that we use are the Progress Tests in English, Mathematics, and Science that are part of the GL Assessments testing suite. These Progress Tests are standardised against the UK curriculum and are used to benchmark achievement specific to the expected learning for students at specific year levels. Students cannot revise for these tests as there are no past papers or revision materials that are linked to this testing system.

At Uplands, all students also undergo the CAT4 test which is also part of the same GL Assessment testing suite. CAT4 is not a benchmarking test in any particular subject, but an assessment of a students’ reasoning (thinking) abilities in key areas that support educational development and academic attainment.

Testing in these cognitive areas provides vast empirical data that provides us with information of a predictive nature. This helps give educators a starting point in planning strategies to help students achieve their maximum potential.

The combination of aptitude and achievement testing enables us to closely monitor the progress of our students and provide the tools to inform our learning and teaching practices.

When comparing the results of the Progress Tests we do each academic year for Year 7, 8, and 9, we can observe how students are progressing against their own individual expected progress in each subject within the last 12 months.

The analysis of the Progress Tests for English, Mathematics, and Science has yielded the following data:

SubjectProgress% Students
EnglishExpected or better
EnglishBetter than expected
MathematicsExpected or better
MathematicsBetter than expected
ScienceExpected or better
ScienceBetter than expected

The measure of progress is calculated by the difference between the previous standardised age score (SAS) and the most recent SAS. Students who make expected progress will have the same SAS each year (∓ 7 points). Better than expected progress is +8 points or higher on the previous score.

Given the impact from the ongoing pandemic, having spent 30 weeks learning from home (from the start of the pandemic school closures from March 2020 to June 2021), the progress that students have made in the middle school last academic year is phenomenal.

Transition from Primary into Secondary at Uplands

Transition from the Primary to Secondary school is a pivotal time in a student’s educational journey. We are proud of the transition that our Year 7 students have made during the pandemic.

Subject% Students making better than expected progress from Year 5 to the end of Year 7

The table above shows the percentage of students in English and Mathematics making better than expected progress over the two-year period from the end of Year 5 to the end of Year 7. Transition into the Secondary school is not just about the preparation of the student from Year 6 into 7. In order to set students up for a successful transition, the preparation must start in Year 5.

Another piece of information to consider is that the Progress Tests are normally administered at the end of the academic year before the summer break to collect data about the learning from that academic year. Due to the pandemic we delayed the test for the students in hope that it could be administered in person. This meant that in actual fact, students sat the Progress Test after the summer break (which meant there was an even bigger gap between when they learned the material and when they were tested). It is normal for the summer break to cause a slight dip in attainment just because students are not in school actively learning over the holidays, so this makes our results even more impressive as the scores are likely to have been higher had students taken the test at the usual time before the summer break.

A few words from our Heads of Faculty:

Shannon Kerry, Head of Language A Faculty: "The English Faculty has worked to solidify our focus on Language and Literature concepts and Approached to Learning in every unit. We think that this allows students to not only learn within the text and task they are studying at the time, but to see how the ideas and skills they develop apply to new situations. It is clear that our students are high achieving in general, and that the curriculum supports their continued growth no matter where they start."

Maria Nicolson, Head of Mathematics: "In Mathematics, we have been continuing to build the students' understanding of mathematics as they progress from Year 7 to Year 13. When designing lessons to support students' progress mathematically, we try to combine an array of instructional strategies including problem solving, direct instruction, investigation, assessment, and practice. As the skill set our graduates need today is so vast, we try to incorporate important twenty-first century skills such as reasoning, real-world problems and communication in our lessons. Persevering through a difficult problem, and justifying their thinking supports the development of their mathematical understanding in a way that is meaningful and relevant. As Thomas Edison said that he did not fail at making the light bulb one thousand times, but rather 'that the light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps', highlight that making mistakes in a natural part of all learning, and leads to the development of a much stronger understanding."

James Waring, Head of Science: "As Head of the Science Faculty, I'm absolutely delighted to see the amazing levels of progress shown by our talented and resilient Year 7-9 students. Over the last few years the Year 7-9 Science Programme has been overhauled and this is clearly having a hugely positive impact on the progress and enjoyment levels of our students. We've introduced assessments that focus on the transferable skills with an emphasis on Thinking, Research, and Communication skills. Varied types of assessments also allow students to have opportunities to demonstrate their learning in more creative ways. I'm grateful for the hard work and effort of each day and every one of our science teachers, who are dedicated to ensuring that our students reach their full potential in the subject."

We are delighted that our students have continued to be resilient in these difficult times, and their love of learning has not waned despite spending a significant amount of time learning online. Our students should be very proud of what they have achieved. UPLANDS ROAR!