Benchmark tests are standardised assessments that evaluate students’ knowledge and skills relative to a set of longer term goals.
These tests are intended to be standardised in nature, which means that all students in the cohort are given the same opportunity to understand the content and test their own abilities in a fair examination.
These benchmarking tests are important for informing policy, institutional decision-making, instructional planning and resource allocation.
They can also be very useful for improving high school teacher training by providing data on what methodology works, where students might be struggling and how training might be improved. Some ways that benchmark testing might improve high school teacher training include:
Benchmark testing can help educators and institutions understand where teachers need more training or a revision of existing methods
Most schools struggle with budget allocation, resourcing and effectively training their staff. This means that data is vital to understanding which faculties might be performing well and which might need more work and guidance to really accelerate.
Benchmark testing at the school level can provide educators with an understanding of where students might be struggling the most, whether it is maths, reading, sciences or some other material.
This in turn can allow schools to improve training opportunities for those faculties and really start to elevate the performance of the school as a whole.
This can also work at the country or global level, where benchmarking performance between schools, states and countries can highlight where educators might be falling behind and really bolster revision of high-school teacher training in universities to better contend with the international market.
Benchmark testing provides teachers with evidence-based analysis on what teaching methods are most effective for a broad range of students
Every higher learning institution has their own teaching methods and ways of selecting and educating their teachers. Those teachers then go on to educate their own high-school classes and eventually might pass on their methods to the next generation of educators.
What benchmark testing allows training institutions to do is to understand what schools are over or under-performing, and using this data can dig deeper into the types of factors that may affect student learning outcomes. This in turn can help inform new teaching methods or reaffirm which of the existing methods resonate most with students.
Benchmark testing can be used to foster global peer-learning among school leaders, teachers and educators
The world is becoming more and more globalised, more and more interconnected. This means that there are a vast number of opportunities to learn from other educational institutions, not just within your own country but also abroad.
This can be difficult however if you don’t have a standardised test that helps measure student performance globally. This is because without proper benchmark data it can be difficult to know what institutions are beating expectations, which ones are struggling and where teachers can go to really improve and bolster their teaching methods by approaching their peers locally and abroad.
Understanding the importance of context when educating children and young adults
One of the most important points of benchmark testing is that it allows educators to go beyond the curriculum to really understand the hows and whys of student performance.
A great example of this is the PISA OECD Test for Schools. This is an international school-level assessment that includes maths, reading, science, collaborative problem solving and then ends with a questionnaire that asks students to provide information on their motivations for learning, socioeconomic background and other important factors that may have affected the outcome of their exam.
This kind of data that comes from benchmark testing can be vital to training teachers on how to identify issues beyond the classroom and understand when additional resources, help or understanding can make a big difference to student outcomes.
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