Empowering equity with refreshed assessment tool

Issue: Volume 103, Number 4

Posted: 4 April 2024
Reference #: 1HAft4

With a legacy spanning more than four decades, Progressive Achievement Tests assessments have undergone a refreshing transformation led by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, charting a course toward greater equity in education.

PAT Pānui | PAT Reading Comprehension, the latest of the updated assessments, is now available online.

PAT Pānui | PAT Reading Comprehension, the latest of the updated assessments, is now available online.

Progressive achievement tests (PATs) remain a popular assessment for schools. Established more than 40 years ago, they are a useful tool for schools to use alongside other data sources to understand how ākonga are progressing.

Since 2021, the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) – creator and administrator of the PATs – has been undertaking a refresh of the tests as part of a journey to make assessment more equitable for ākonga.

While the work is far from complete, there have been several big changes in the last year that can be hugely beneficial for schools.

What are PATs?

PATs are a suite of standardised assessments developed by NZCER, specifically for learners in Years 3–10 (although some refreshed assessments are also appropriate for Year 11).

These assessments are research-based and have been carefully developed for use in Aotearoa New Zealand English-medium contexts. Each assessment can be used at multiple year levels and achievement is reported on a common measurement scale, which is currently being updated across each refreshed assessment.

Currently, NZCER offers the following in both paper format and digital format (unless otherwise noted):

  • PAT Pāngarau | PAT Mathematics, a refreshed assessment for Years 3–10
  • PAT Pānui | PAT Reading Comprehension, a refreshed assessment (digital-only in 2024)
  • PAT: Reading Comprehension (not refreshed)
  • PAT: Reading Vocabulary (not refreshed)
  • PAT: Listening Comprehension (not refreshed)
  • PAT: Punctuation and Grammar (not refreshed)

“[PATs] provide a useful snapshot, a point-in-time measure of how ākonga are doing that can support in- and out-of-classroom conversations,” says NZCER tumuaki Graeme Cosslett.

“There is always scope for improvement in the assessment space, which is why we decided a few years ago to embark on this equity-focused journey … It is important to us, as well as the schools and sector bodies we regularly speak to, that we really give attention to the equity focus in our assessments.”

What does equitable mean?

In an equitable system, it’s recognised that some people are advantaged compared with others, and resourcing or pathways are provided so those without advantages can succeed.

“We know from the evidence that in Aotearoa, a disproportionate number of ākonga Māori, Pacific learners, ākonga from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and ākonga with additional needs achieve at significantly lower levels than their peers,” notes Bronwyn Gibbs, kaiwhakawhanake rauemi matua/kairangahau | senior resource developer/researcher.

“Assessment practices and differences in opportunities for learning have contributed to these inequitable outcomes. The PAT refresh is about changing these to help address those outcomes.”

Bronwyn adds that kaiako should ideally engage with multiple sources of assessment data, not just the PATs.

By providing all ākonga with opportunities to build on their languages, cultures, and identities as strengths, they can reach their full potential as learners.

PATs in the current environment

Dr Charles Darr, kaihautū rangahau at NZCER, believes that assessment tools such as the PATs have an important role to play in measuring student progress – but they should be used as one of many tools to support ākonga through their education.

“These assessments are a fantastic tool for measuring progress – but they should be used in a low stakes environment and in concert with other measures, as well as in collaboration with whānau and community. They should not be a standalone indicator of how kaiako are progressing.”

Charles says other measures can include classroom observations and learning conversations, collecting ākonga work samples, conducting ākonga self and peer assessments, or using assessment tools created by kaiako.

It is by building this more comprehensive and holistic picture of ākonga progress, he says, that we can better support learners to flourish.

The refresh is intended to make these assessments more culturally relevant, authentic and accessible for all ākonga, and this work will continue in the years ahead.

All of the new assessments have been rigorously tested and piloted with schools to ensure continuity between the previous PATs and the refreshed ones.

What the refreshed assessments look like 

It has been some time since Progressive Achievement Tests content was last refreshed, which has meant some significant changes to the assessments.

This has begun with the new PAT Pāngarau | PAT Mathematics in 2023, and continues in term 1 2024 with the refreshed PAT Pānui | PAT Reading Comprehension.

Changes for PAT Pāngarau | PAT Mathematics

  • Updated content and question contexts to enable a wider range of learners to see themselves and their cultural and social worlds reflected in the assessments.
  • Home and community settings have been prioritised over school-based contexts.
  • Where possible, principles and values such as mahi tahi (working together), kaitiakitanga (guardianship), and manaakitanga (kindness, generosity) are represented within items.
  • Graphics in PAT Pāngarau have been updated so that images are more realistic and relatable. For example, people from a range of cultures are depicted and people with different body sizes and physical abilities are represented.
  • Wording has been simplified to ensure that language is not a barrier to accessing the mathematics assessments. Additionally, many of the PAT Pāngarau assessments now have an audio option for ākonga to have questions read to them.
  • NZCER has updated the look-and-feel of the online assessments and refreshed the images used in the computer adaptive version of the PAT Pāngarau assessment.

Changes for PAT Pānui | PAT Reading Comprehension 

  • NZCER has introduced materials from contemporary New Zealand, Māori and Pacific authors.
  • Test developers focused on equity, social and cultural diversity to better reflect communities and environments from across Aotearoa and the wider Pacific.
  • Improved accessibility options for ākonga.
  • Multiple-choice questions have been re-categorised to test a broader range of reading comprehension attributes, including retrieval, local and complex inferencing, integrating and interpreting information, and critiquing and evaluating texts.

Additionally, the refresh has seen the commencement of norm and measurement scale recalibration. This is done as data from the refreshed assessments is made available, and provides a new measurement scale, scale scores and national reference information in schools’ reporting. This has begun for PAT Pāngarau and will continue as more assessment data is collected.

For more information, visit nzcer.org.nz/tests/pats(external link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 11:20 am, 4 April 2024

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