Friday, September 19, 2014

Update 17 September 2014 - Using Assessment Data

Here we are in the penultimate week of term and life is increasingly chaotic.  Enjoy the final days as you head towards the spring holiday break.

What have you got in place to ensure your learners continue to read and write over the break? We would love to hear your ideas.  Maybe your local library or literacy association has holiday events planned that you could share with others via this mailing list.

Renewed enthusiasm for reading snapshot could help shape your thinking for learners to use their own devices over the holidays to continue their literacy journey.

The Ready to Read series features in the latest Curriculum Update.  This links to the SHARED READING: MEETING THE DIVERSE NEEDS OF STUDENTS which is well worth revisiting.  
Role of the teacher in shared reading
The teacher’s role in shared reading is to provide sufficient scaffolds to ensure that students successfully transition from reading the text with the teacher to reading it by themselves. To achieve this, the teacher:
  • purposefully encourages thoughtful and personal responses that develop critical thinking;
  • focuses on specific text challenges, such as vocabulary and structural elements to clarify meaning;
  • supports processing behaviours that students can apply in a guided reading context, during independent reading, or in their writing.
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I am delighted to be able to share a guest blog post by Cathie Johnson this week from NZCER, helping us shape our thinking around standardised assessments and the use of the wealth of data produced.  Many schools look to conduct assessments in term four, so we are hoping this is a very useful and timely post.  Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Cathie for further support and discussion.  

'You drive the data - don't let the data drive you' by Cathie Johnson

Here we are coming into Term 4 and many schools will be using standardised assessments to gather their end of year data. In my work with schools, I notice that most are good at gathering data, but only a few know what to do with it.

My new catch phrase is: 'You drive the data - don't let the data drive you'.

Evidence is obtained through a range of informal and formal assessment approaches.  (NZC, p. 40)

The freedom signalled by the NZC allows you to choose the what, the when, the how, and the why as long as the statements you make about student achievement are evidence-based and absolutely robust. The PATs/STAR/ are examples of formal assessments so let's see why you might use them. Have a read of the following points and see if any of them can help turn the data you gather into rich diagnostic information to improve your teaching, and therefore students' learning.
  • Before you choose the assessments you want to use next term,  try using these questions to understand which one to choose:
  •   What information do I need to gather ?  
  •   Will the assessment chosen give me that information?
  • What is the purpose for gathering this data?
  • How will it help teaching and learning?  
The moment you do that, you will choose only the assessments that seem appropriate. When you look at the data you've gathered, you will then be looking for specific information to answer your questions - it's a win-win

  • Sitting in behind each of the PATs/STAR there's  an amazing tool called the Rasch Scale - you will have seen the column for the Scale Score on the Scoring Conversion Table. It is a brilliant diagnostic tool - really. It works like a thermometer - as a student climbs the scale in any subject, it means they are improving their understanding in that subject. In the back of the Manuals are scale descriptors. When a child gets a scale score, you can look at the descriptors around the curriculum level they're sitting at, and easily see the next steps teaching  to move them up the scale. It is brilliant. Just give me a call if you want a better explanation.

  • Choosing the right assessment - you will get the most diagnostic information from a PAT/STAR if you choose the one that matches the child's ability - check the scale. If it is too hard, the only thing you'll know is what they can't do. If it is too easy, you won't be given any 'next steps' for learning.  For your outliers, strugglers and extension, consider choosing tests higher or lower than those recommended for their year level. It won't alter the stanines, but it will give you richer evidence for 'next steps' teaching.
  • A question:  Do your teachers see the data they collect as evidence for their teaching needs or evidence of a student's ability. Remember the PAT/STAR is a snapshot of a moment in time - where the student is today, and you have to consider the question:  With excellent teaching, where might that student be on the Scale?  What do you need to improve in your teaching to get them there?

Assessment is another of those things that requires robust self-review when new information comes along. When I ask 'why did you choose that PAT?'  I often hear: 'We've always done it that way'. I think, to date, we've focused on the 'what' of assessment, but we also need to ask ourselves the  'why' and the 'how' questions.

What is the purpose for the assessment?  Remember:  You drive the data, don't let the data drive you.

If you would like to discuss the what, the when, the how, and the why of PATs/STAR, don't hesitate to give me a call. I run webinars and workshops for staff, clusters, and senior management. Just give me a call on 04) 802 1386 or
Cathie Johnson

Thanks Cathie for this invaluable insight. 'You drive the data - don't let the data drive you'. Please share with the mailing list how you plan to drive the use of data at your school.

Anne’s Literacy Links and Look ups…

A reminder that the Surfing the Literacy Wave Conference has now opened up day registrations.


  • Have you signed up for Connected Educator Month.  Want to show your support for Connected Educator Month? Need posters for the staffroom wall or a logo for your supporter’s blog?   Perhaps you want to let people know that you, and your organisation or colleagues are part of “connected educators”.  In this Supporters’ Kete/Kit, adapted with permission from the resources developed by our US partners, you’ll find a collection of logos, posters, and other promotional resources to help spread the word.
Ngā mihi nui
Anne Kenneally
Literacy Online Facilitator
CORE Education

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