Defining the terms
Assessing Pupil Progress (APP)
As mentioned, Assessing Pupil Progress is a tool that was developed to support AfL. Developed from a project called Monitoring Pupils' Progress (QCA 2006), the current version was published in 2008 and, although English was the pilot subject, it is now used across all core subjects. Its main purposes are that 'Every child knows what progress they are making, and understands what they need to do to improve and how to get there... (and) ... Every teacher is equipped to make well-founded judgements about pupils' attainment, understands the concepts and principles of progression, and knows how to use their assessment judgements to forward plan (DCFS 2008: p.3). In other words, it seeks to make clear to pupils and their teachers what National Curriculum level a pupil has reached and inform them what needs to be achieved to enable the pupil to reach the next level, or demonstrably 'get better'. A pupil is judged according to whether they are 'High', 'Secure' or 'Low' within a level.
What marks APP out from other means of formative assessment is the use of a series of 'assessment guidelines sheets', which contain all the Assessment Focuses (on the horizontal axis) for just two levels - but including the three sublevels (on the vertical axis). Thus, completion of one grid should indicate whether a pupil is, for example, a 'High' level 3 or a 'Low' level 4 in Reading, or a 'Secure' level 7 or 'High' level 7 in Writing.
It should be emphasised that APP is designed to be periodic assessment, completed at most each half term, although some schools use the method more frequently. Thus the approach is designed to be used throughout KS1, 2 and 3; after that, assessment at GCSE takes over and, indeed, it is on GCSE grades that schools are now judged.
It is interesting that despite the DCSF's efforts to promulgate APP, as Smith (2009) points out, APP has not been yet proven to raise achievement for any but the lowest achievers and might even conflict with some AfL practice (although anecdotal evidence from some teachers taking part in an informal discussion forum contradicts this view, finding APP helped to motivate more able 'coasting' pupils: http://www.teachit.co.uk/index.asp?CurrMenu=55&forum_action=show_message&ID=62012#MSG62012). The fact that a decision has been made to assess pupils' end-of-Key Stage 3 achievement in English using national sampling through testing from 2011 further questions the value of APP in the classroom. Smith's paper offers a cogent critique of APP and should be borne in mind whilst using the resources on APP that follow. Student teachers need to consider through their reading and their experience in schools whether APP genuinely helps children and pupils to develop, or whether AfL as originally conceived is a more valuable approach to assessment.