Creative Learners

Creative Learners
Learning Brief

The Shine Trust

Effective programme monitoring using bi-annual student assessments

Category: Creative Learners | Reading Promotion | 5 April, 2014 - 06:00



Since 2009, the Shine Centre has been delivering a literacy model aimed at Grade Two and Three second-language children who are learning to read and write in English. We identify children in need of literacy support, take them out of the classroom during school, and partner them with a trained volunteer for two hours a week. During these sessions with the volunteer the child receives intensive, focused language skills development support that is tailored to their needs. This support may last for up to two years and we track each child’s progress every six months using standardised and diagnostic assessments.


To measure our programme’s impact on the select children in relation to their peers, we conduct bi-annual tests on every Foundation Phase child at the target schools. This helps us gain a comprehensive understanding of the children we support and of the level of language competency at the school.

In order to formalise the steps needed to measure the programme’s effectiveness Shine has created two diagnostic assessments (called D1 and D2). We also utilise a standardised reading test from the United Kingdom to assess all children in the Foundation Phase. This structure ensures all children who need extra support are receiving it and that children who remain in the classroom (not on the programme) are also making progress.


The first diagnostic test (D1) is administered individually to all children at the end of their Grade One school year and is used to help select those who will attend the Shine Centre in their Grade Two year. This D1 assessment measures skills such as understanding the sounds of the alphabet, decoding three letter words, reading three or four letter words, and short sentence construction. In addition, our assessments offer a qualitative aspect to understanding the child by asking questions about their home language and accessibility to books. On average, 50% of the children assessed are accepted into the Shine programme for the following year. The same assessment is administered six-months later to all Grade Two children.

The second diagnostic assessment (D2) is administered for the select Shine learners only at the end of the Grade Two year to see who will continue with Shine in Grade Three. This assessment measures children’s reading ability and comprehension, as well as their sentence construction. In addition, ALL Grade Two’s are given a standardised reading test resulting in a child being allocated a ‘reading age’ that is then compared to their physical age in years. We give this test again, six months later in mid-Grade Three, to all children and compare the results with the first assessment. The D2 is given again to any Grade Three child still on the Shine programme at the end of Grade Three.


All our network partners and the Shine Chapters (social franchises) all use the same assessment tools and procedures to help us easily track our learner’s academic journey. All the results from the various assessments are captured on Salesforce, an online database system that the partners can access. Using this database, we can easily reference a child’s assessment history through their individual profile.

We have seen that after just 32 hours of intervention (January-June) children in Grade Two make tremendous progress, and after 64 hours (by the end of their Grade Two year) the majority of children do not need extra literacy support going forward. The children who usually return to Shine in Grade Three often have learning difficulties and through the assessment results we are able to understand what those challenges are and support the school in making better decisions for that child. Usually we can recommend and support some extra therapy or testing that the child may need for Grade 4.


  • Over time we have learned that the facilitators (our volunteers) need to undergo effective training on administering the tests in order to ensure consistency among the assessments.
  • In addition, we find that a Shine staff member must be present during the assessment facilitation period to support the volunteers.
  • In order to ensure consistency, only Shine staff members are responsible for scoring and recording each assessment and putting the information on Salesforce.


Bi-annual assessments are an efficient way to show our programme’s effectiveness. By continuing to track all the children in the grade, and not only Shine children, we are able to ensure that no child falls between the learning cracks. We can also use the results to determine how the children not on our programme are managing.

In the last year we reformatted our D1 test to be more in line with the new CAPS curriculum and we are currently looking for a substitute to the standardised reading test as it is now out of date and we are unable to buy a subscription for its use. We will continue with the assessment schedule for the foreseeable future as it is a vital part of our programme and is directly advantageous to our beneficiaries.

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In Short

In this learning brief the Shine Trust shares its assessment strategy for a literacy and language development programme. This involves conducting bi-annual standardised tests that track the programme-children’s progress in relation to their school peers. Additionally, it provides an efficient way to measure the programme’s effectiveness.

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