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Post date: Friday, 25 September 2015

PATs - doing what you've always done in term four?

At this time of year I’m remembering the questions we used to have in our school about the PATs - ‘Term 4 is coming up  - what week shall we do the PATs  in?’  ‘Have we got enough Test 3s for the Year 5s?’  ‘When’s the BOT report due - we need to have it sorted by then?’.  You know those conversations I’m sure.

But lately, as the Education Adviser, I’m getting a whole lot of different questions around the PATs, which is really exciting. There is never one answer to the question, as every school has to bring what happened in teaching and learning in 2015 to bear on their decisions. But that’s good - purposeful and relevant to what’s going on in your own school  is what you want. To me, it means schools are really thinking about who, what, when, and why they test their students.  For example:

Do you think we need to use Reading Comprehension, Maths, and STAR tests at the beginning and end of every year?

Hmm - that depends. What is your confidence in your staff’s curriculum knowledge to be able to position and student in the curriculum and judge the progress they’ve made?

What was your focus in inquiry this year? How does data you intend to gather relate to that inquiry ? Try not to overload yourself with data otherwise you might be just testing for testing’s sake.

Could we just test a cohort of kids or do we have to test everyone?

There’s no right or wrong way -   just do what makes sense. If your focus, interventions, change, budgets, monitoring has been around a group of target students, then it makes perfect sense to just test  them. You will have other ways of knowing the position and progress of the other students.

Does every student in the same year level have to sit the same test?

Absolutely not. The recommended test works for most students.  However, to get relevant, diagnostic information in the curriculum area the student is actually working in, it just makes sense to choose the test developed for that curriculum level. For example, a student in Year 7 working at curriculum level 2 should probably sit the test recommended for Year 4. Take a look at the test and decide if they could confidently answer at least 50% of the questions correctly - if yes, you have the right test. Same for academically  bright students.

Do you have to test in Term 4?

Again, absolutely not.  The whole thing is determined by what you want the data for. Let’s say you know the reading ages don’t match the comprehension ages and you want to find out why. You might choose STAR because it has subtests for both and you can absolutely choose when you want to test. It puts you in charge - you’re deciding when, what, and why you want data. The scale score works really well here because you can use it in every term, and it’s finer-grained way to show progress anyway, compared to using stanines.

Measurement is important when you can see its purpose in improving learning.

If you have any  questions please email: Cathie Johnson educationadviser@nzcer.org.nz

 

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