The original development of the STAR (Supplementary Test of Achievement in Reading) Test was carried out for NZCER by Dr Warwick Elley, now Emeritus Professor of Education. He also led the team that revised the test in 2010-2011. He has written a letter to the Listener which is worth repeating here:
Recently, publicity has been given to the fact that a few school principals have reported unexpectedly high stanine scores from their students’ results on the new versions of the STAR Reading Tests (“Testing times, February 23). Surprisingly, this is being interpreted in some quarters as a “conspiracy” to help the Ministry of Education demonstrate improvements in student achievement relative to National Standards. It has even been suggested that the NZ Council for Educational Research (NZCER) has responded to pressure from the ministry to make the revised tests easier. As one of the team that revised these tests, I can state categorically that nothing could be further from the truth. We would be appalled if it were the case. At no time did the ministry show any interest in the revision of the tests. The NZCER has always valued its independence, and the ministry respects it. Furthermore, it is not true that the new tests are easier than the old editions. Comparisons based on hundreds of students’ scores show the results are very close to expectation. One test is a little easier, two are slightly harder and all the others are virtually the same as before in the degree of difficulty. If the tests are correctly administered and interpreted, most teachers will find little difference in students’ performance levels on the new versions. However, it should be said that the revised tests have introduced several new features, and NZCER staff now realise they have more work to do to explain the changes to teachers so there can be no misunderstanding in the way students’ scores are recorded and interpreted. This need is being addressed. The STAR Tests, properly administered and interpreted, cannot be used to artifi cially distort students’ achievement levels.