Academic Assessment Policy

The Newman School’s IB Assessment Policy

 

Assessment Philosophy

 

“It is the saying of holy men that, if we wish to be perfect, we have nothing more to do than to perform the ordinary duties of the day well… There are no short ways to perfection, but there are sure ones.” -John Henry Newman

 

Cardinal Newman characterizes perfection as a striving toward “completeness of action” in every endeavor. His words invite us to recognize the relationship between the increments of our daily efforts, and their cumulative impact on the attainment of our full human potential.  Understood in this sense, the goal of moving toward perfection is within reach for every student born with the capacity to reflect on his or her actions. 

 

However, the will, self-discipline and maturity necessary to sustain this goal do not emerge automatically in adolescence. A fundamental purpose of education at the Newman School is to guide students toward lasting development of these attributes as they undertake the significant academic challenges offered by the IB program, wherein “the ordinary duties of the day” often include the experience of setbacks as well as successes. Effective assessment practices are a cornerstone of our faculty’s approach to guiding students’ academic and personal growth.

 

Our mission statement asserts that students are best able to achieve their potential “in an environment of mutual respect, integrity, seriousness of purpose and civic responsibility.” The IB Assessment Philosophy at the Newman School aims to have instructors actively model these qualities throughout their assessment work with students in an atmosphere imbued by the spirit of cor ad cor loquitur:

 

Mutual respect is conveyed through careful planning by instructors that gives students ample opportunity to strategize and organize for scheduled assessments. Students are also invited to seek extra help, as teachers are available before and after school for additional review.

 

Integrity requires instructors fairly assessing material presented in class to give students ample opportunity to demonstrate conceptual understanding and critical thinking. 

 

Demonstrating seriousness of purpose, instructors model IB rubrics in their courses, assessing levels of students' work with specific criteria relating to subject assessments, then judiciously translating those scores into a Newman grade. Students also analyze their own learning, reflecting on progress and setting goals for improvements.

 

Civic (school) responsibility requires instructors to grade in a fair and equitable manner, explain assessment criteria in advance, maintain consistency and transparency regarding the percentages of grading categories, give students a variety of assessment opportunities and return graded work in a timely manner. 

 

Teachers utilize assessment to guide instruction and to provide feedback to improve future learning. At a diverse international school, a consistent team approach to assessment, grounded in IB principles, is essential both within and across the Groups, in order to provide students with a cohesive, manageable and equitable experience of being assessed by others.  Through this collective effort, teachers are able to provide students with sound guidance of their learning, students are able to academically flourish, and all are held accountable for their contribution to the development of a collegial and cosmopolitan school community.

 

Formative and Summative Assessments

 

At the Newman School, both formative and summative assessments are utilized by instructors to guide learning. Each course offers a variety of assessments that both allow students to take academic risks, and demonstrate attainment of knowledge and skills in formats directly related to IB rubric criteria and published learning outcomes. 

 

Formative assessment represents the process of gathering, analyzing, interpreting and using evidence to improve student learning. It is blended into the daily learning process and is an integral part of instruction, providing teachers and students with information about how learning is progressing. It helps the teacher to provide timely and specific feedback to students, scaffold next steps, and differentiate instruction in response to student needs. Formative assessment can take on a number of forms including: teacher-supported self-evaluation, systematic use of detailed assessment descriptors (rubrics, matrices), and peer evaluation mediated by the teacher (either face to face or using an ICT resource, such as a blog). Results of formative assessment are used by students to monitor their own progress, make adjustments in their learning approaches, reflect on their learning, and set individual goals. In other words, formative assessment serves as the foundation for learning and prepares students for the elevated nature of summative assessments, which measure achievement and are used to evaluate a student’s knowledge and skill level.

 

Summative assessment can occur in the middle or at the end of a period of learning, when students are given the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned by applying their knowledge in new and authentic contexts. These assessments may take on the form of written assignments, research papers, oral presentations, cumulative examinations, field work, lab write-ups and portfolios. These summative assessments are used by teachers to make judgments about the quality and quantity of student learning on the basis of established criteria, to assign a value to represent that quality and quantity, and to support the communication of information about achievement to students, parents, teachers and administrators.

 

Universal Assessment Practices

 

All teachers of IB courses at Newman School adhere to these assessment practices:

 

Planning for assessment

 

  • IB subject area teachers plan their courses with the IB Middle Years aims and assessment criteria in mind.

  • IB teachers design courses so that students’ current knowledge and experience are assessed before the introduction of new learning.

  • IB teachers collaboratively create and publish a timeline for assessments to help students plan ahead and manage their workload.

  • IB teachers are trained on up to date developments in subject area curricula.

  • IB teachers utilize information on the OCC such as Subject reports, Coordinator’s notes, and subject forums to enhance their teachings 

  • IB teachers communicate course expectations and requirements clearly in their syllabi. 

 

Assessment strategies

 

  • Assessment in the IB Middle Years Program is criterion-related, allowing student achievement to be judged against clearly defined pre-determined descriptors.

  • IB teachers use a broad range of formal and informal assessment strategies throughout their course to allow students to demonstrate their learning.

  • IB teachers provide students with multiple opportunities throughout the course to reflect upon their achievement based upon meaningful feedback.

  • IB teachers design assessment tasks that allow students to achieve at the highest levels. 

  • IB teachers design formative assessment tasks that prepare students for success on their IB summative assessments.

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Feedback and reporting on assessment

  • IB teachers provide students with rubrics that define expectations for assessment tasks and align with subject area criteria.

  • IB teachers provide students with exemplars to illustrate high levels of achievement on assigned tasks.

  • IB teachers use various methods to provide students with accurate and prompt feedback about their current levels of achievement and ways they need to do to improve.

  • IB teachers record and report assessment using a secure online grade book, ManageBac, that is accessible to students and parents at all times.

 

Analysis of assessment

 

  • IB subject area teachers standardize their grading to ensure accuracy of interpretation of assessment criteria.

  • IB teachers use assessment data to set goals that address students’ learning needs, plan curriculum and drive instruction.

  • IB teachers regularly review assessment practices.

  • IB teachers translate grades from IB assessments into school grading equivalents.

 

General Middle Years Program Requirements.

  • Grades 7 and 8 take eight subjects.

  • Grades 9 and 10 take the core subjects of English, Foreign Language, Math, Science, and Humanities and choose one additional class from Design, Arts or Physical and Health education.

  • Performance in each subject is graded on a scale of 8 points (maximum) down to 0 points (minimum).

  • Personal Project in Grade 10 must be successfully completed.

  • The maximum total MYP Points annually for Grades 7 and 8 is 64.

  • The maximum total MYP Points annually for six subjects taken in Grades 9 and 10 is 48.

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Promotion in the IB Middle Years Program and Diploma Program at Newman is dependent upon:

  • An overall grade percentage of ( C+ or higher?)

  • Personal Project requirements have been met and candidate’s total points are 16 (4) or higher.

  • C&S requirement have been met..

  • No more than 1 final grade being a 2/7 at any given year in the Middle Years Program at Newman School or other IB MYP Schools.

  • Ability to work successfully in English regarding literary, writing and speaking skills.

  • Evidence of ongoing work and progress in areas currently proving to be academically challenging. This can be in the forms of tutoring, summer school and extra help.

 

Special Circumstances 

 

Sports, field trips and special projects are all integral for the student experience at Newman. Sports give students an opportunity to connect physical health and discipline with academic well-being. Field trips utilize the city of Boston as Newman’s cultural campus. Lastly, special projects are necessary to allow students to investigate subjects in greater depth, fostering their academic interests and roles as lifelong learners. Instructors are aware of the significance of these programs and are flexible in accommodating students’ schedules affected by these special circumstances when administering ongoing formative assessments. However, students and parents are advised that dates set for IB assessments are fixed unless extraordinary conditions occur, and voluntary participation in activities is not considered an extraordinary condition. 

 

Grade Reporting

 

Grades are calculated by semester. The grade at the conclusion of each semester is the average of all the work completed over the semester. In year long courses, grades are calculated by combining the averages of both semesters. Instructors clarify the breakdown of their grading systems and the value of assessment categories at the onset of the course and course syllabi. 

 

Letter Grade

Grade Point Value

Numerical Equivalent

A

4.0

95-100

A-

3.7

90-94

B+

3.5

87-89

B

3.0

83-86

B-

2.7

80-82

C+

2.5

77-79

C

2.0

73-76

C-

1.7

70-72

D+

1.5

67-69

D

1.0

63-66

D-

.7

60-62

F

0

below 60


 

Comment Writing 

 

Comment writing is an essential aspect of assessment, constructively communicating academic concerns with parents, students and advisors. 

 

Extended comments are produced at the onset of each semester, approximately four weeks into the term. These comments should include a three to four sentence synopsis of the class’ academic progress, as well as a view into the future. In addition, the comment provides two to four sentences on the student’s progress in the course. This comment should emphasize both student successes and challenges in a detailed anecdotal manner. Comments are proofread by Department Chairs.

 

Academic comments are included with letter grades both in the middle and at the conclusion of each semester. Comments should be succinct and specific, summarizing students’ academic successes and challenges, giving more insight into the grade. 

 

Lastly, parent communication should not only be left to comment writing. Instructors are encouraged to proactively communicate with parents through Academic Alerts if students are struggling to meet course requirements.

 

General Rules and Regulations Regarding Assessment Administration and Timing  

 

The IB Middle Years Program at The Newman School subsumes the following school-based interventions to nurture student self-direction regarding submission of major assignments and unit tests, and to provide information to parents in order to help maximize student achievement:

 

• IB teachers clearly outline all assigned work to students in class and mirror this communication on Managebac.

 

• Students are notified at least five days prior to writing a unit test or having a major assignment due.  

 

• Teachers adhere to the following schedule for giving Tests to be counted towards summative assessment: Science- Monday, Humanities  - Tuesday, English Literature - Wednesday, Math - Thursday, Foreign Language and Art-Friday. Other assessments can be assigned on other days. 

 

• Absenteeism shall not exempt students from missed assessments. Missed assessments are assigned a score of zero in instructors’ Managebac grade books until they are made up. Upon return to a class, arrangements must be made to address the missed assessment. If a student misses an assessment, it is their responsibility to follow up with the instructor to schedule a make-up. Make-ups should be scheduled within five days of the absence unless special circumstances do not permit. 

 

• The value of late submissions is determined by the instructor. All late submissions receive a deduction, the amount depending on the scenario.

 

 Midterm and Scheduling Assessments Rules and Regulations

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While mid-semester exams are not required in IB Middle Years Program courses, in courses where application of cumulative knowledge is essential, instructors may elect to give a mid-semester assessment in order to measure attainment of knowledge milestones.

 

Instructors should be aware of the Newman IB assessment calendar when planning assessments, in order not to overschedule. Faculty must be cognizant of the many competing demands placed on student time and help to organize and manage optimal assessment plans.


 

Academic Honesty in the Assessment Process

 

Assessments are only useful insofar as they are authentic representations of an individual student’s degree of academic development. In order to produce authentic work, students must adhere to principles of academic honesty. All students are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with the Newman Student Honor Code and represent their work in an academically honest manner, following rules specified by the instructor and engaging in collaborative work with classmates only when the assessment is designed specifically for group completion and submission.  This expectation is to be upheld irrespective of whether the work is completed as a formative or summative assessment, whether it is completed under timed in-class conditions or outside of the classroom as a homework assignment. For more information, please see our Academic Honesty Policy (hyperlink).  

 

Inclusion/Special Needs Considerations in the Assessment Process

 

Students with diagnosed learning disabilities or other medically confirmed conditions impacting their ability to complete assessments under the time and/or space constraints for a given assessment may request modification of the assessment’s administrative conditions. In the case of assessments that are only evaluated internally by Newman faculty, the involved teacher may decide upon modifications suitable to the specific circumstances and diagnosed needs of the student, with the assistance of the School Counselor. In the case of externally moderated assessments, such as recorded oral presentations and timed exams, teachers and students must follow specific recommendations outlined by the IBO regarding modification of assessment conditions. For more information, please see our Inclusion/Special Needs Policy (hyperlink).

 

English Language Learners and the Assessment Process

 

English is the language of administration and execution used in all IB course assessments (excepting those in World Language courses, where the target language is used at a level commensurate with the base level of fluency assumed in the course). Non-native speakers of English exhibit varying degrees of adjustment to cultural norms, academic English fluency and literacy. Some aspects of fluency, such as mastery of grammar, understanding of idioms and appropriate word choice, will continue to impact non-native speakers of English throughout their course of study.  

 

All teachers are expected to take this reality into consideration when administering assessments, and to design assessments that do not inordinately penalize non-native English speakers for language limits not directly relevant to the course material. At the same time, teachers may also evaluate the assessments completed by non-native speakers as valid indicators of functional linguistic capacity, and use them as a diagnostic tool to identify areas of weakness that may require tutorial intervention. If assessments produce comprehensive evidence that a student’s level of fluency in English is inadequate for comprehension of the course material and mastery of its basic concepts, the student may be placed in an alternative, more appropriate course

 

Understanding the Relationship between IB Level Marks and Newman School Course Grades

 

IB Middle Years Program marks are based upon internally conducted assessments over the course of a two- semester instructional period. The material evidence each student produces is evaluated through the use of rubrics that indicate levels of competence in specific skills relative to the course. The resulting final mark awarded ranges from 1 to 7, with 7 representing the highest level of achievement in the subject. (Link to IB mark scales) 

 

It is sometimes incorrectly perceived that there is a direct, causal relationship between a student’s achieved semester grades and their eventual mark achieved in an IB course. For example, a student who achieves As throughout two semesters of a foreign language course may assume he or she will automatically achieve a level 6 or 7 for their final IB mark. Another student, who struggles to pass Environmental Systems and Societies, in the first semester and then achieves a B in his or her second semester, may think his or her chances of achieving a 4 or higher are slim at best. While these outcomes are possible, they are by no means guaranteed. Rather, students should expect some degree of variance between semester grades and IB marks achieved.

 

In order to understand this reality, we ask students and their parents to consider the following points: 

 

• Newman’s course grades represent a comprehensive and personally witnessed view of a student’s performance in the subject area over a shorter range of time. They take more data/information into account and that information is tabulated and analyzed semester by semester, rather than over a cumulative four-semester sequence. 

 

• Final semester grades may be impacted by several factors that are not accounted for within IB’s marking system. These factors include daily attendance, ongoing class participation habits, evidence of exceptional effort and subsequent academic growth shown (or the obverse, in cases of continued poor effort). These factors are important indicators of academic and personal growth that should be monitored and accounted for in an adolescent’s educational journey. However, for obvious reasons, the IB marking system cannot incorporate these elements into a standardized evaluation format used by diverse cultures and their educational systems.

 

• Each subject group at Newman has developed aspects of their ongoing feedback system that combine the use of rubrics provided for their IB coursework and the collective experience of the faculty teaching the subject matter. Use of the IB rubrics reinforces general understanding of IB criteria, and should help students to interpret how their work would be judged in assessment processes for their subject. However, these rubrics are not the only means of measuring the quality of a student’s work. The valuable professional view of an experienced subject teacher who the student’s development on an ongoing, personally tailored basis is of paramount importance in guiding a student’s learning. 

 

Ideally, ongoing rubric-based feedback based on  formative assessments, summatives, cumulative term grades, and IB course marks work together complimentarily. Taken together, they provide guideposts for a student’s understanding of their individual learning process as well as their overall academic development. Students and their parents who require further information about this matter are welcome to contact the appropriate IB coordinator for further clarification.