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Post date: Thursday, 6 November 2014

Education adviser on ways to use STAR

I was working with a school recently and left them feeling good about using STAR because they had found out about a whole lot of new ways to use the data. As one teacher said, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’.  They suggested I get this information out there, so here goes.

Question #1: Did you know you can choose any test for any child?

In the front of the PAT/STAR Manuals there are tables of recommended year levels for each test. They work for most children, because they line up with the curriculum levels and the progressions of learning in each subject. But what about those who struggle or the very bright students in your school?  You probably already know where they sit in comparison to their year group. Wouldn’t it be more helpful to have information about the point they’re at in their learning - and what comes next?  When you choose the test that matches the student’s ability, you will get information about the things they can do AND the things they can’t do; you can see how they’re thinking and you have knowledge to scaffold new learning steps on.

Question #2: Did you know you can test at any time of the year?

The STAR /PATs were designed to help you compare results with other New Zealand children, but they were also designed to give you good descriptions of the students’ learning for that point in time. To do this you need to use the scale score. Each assessment is based on the Rasch scale. As a child learns they increase their level of difficulty and skill in the subject, which shows in movement up the scale. Movement up the scale will show at any time of year. In the back of each test manual there are scale descriptions, linked to the curriculum, which tell you what you would expect a student to know if they are working in that area of the scale. It’s brilliant to help you choose the right test, or find next steps for learning, or making OTJs against curriculum levels at any time of the year.

Question #3: Why are there 3 tests (A, B, & C) for each curriculum level?

When we revised the STAR assessment in line with the curriculum and the Literacy Learning Progressions in 2011, we created 10 tests arranged in order of difficulty. Instead of having Form A & Form B that were the same difficulty, now we have 3-4 A, B,  C;  5-6 A, B, & C; 7-8 A, B, C; & 9A.  Each test is harder than the one before which is good, because now you have more opportunity to choose a test that matches the student’s ability, and you will see more precise  progress up the STAR scale.

Question #4: Do all the children in one class have to sit the same test ?

The answer is no and this becomes important when you match the test to the child’s ability. The assessments were designed to be as personalised as possible to individual students so that you can get the best information possible.

If you belong to NZCER Marking, your class list comes through from the SMS, however, if you want some children to sit a different test you simply Add a New Assessment  and it’s easy to add, move, or remove students  from the class lists.

Question #5: When we test in Term 4, which stanine reference year do we use?

This is a common question and the answer is so logical.  All of the trials were done in Term 1, so the stanines are Term 1 stanines.  If Year 5 students do the test in Term 4 they are closer to Year 6 -Term 1 stanines, so you need to use the Year 6 stanines for their scores. Remember, if you use the scale score to measure progress, it doesn’t matter what time of year you do the assessment.

NZCER Education adviser Cathie Johnson


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