Literacy tests flatter students

LiteracyThe Ministry of Education is reviewing a key test for primary and intermediate school pupils because of concerns it is producing unusually high results and misrepresents students’ true abilities.

A Listener investigation has found that reading and writing tests used by 1,200 schools and about 80,000 students had created confusion because students appeared to be achieving at far higher levels than expected.

The e-asTTle writing test and the STAR reading test helped teachers identify students’ strengths and weaknesses and were used to decide their National Standards ranking. New versions of the tests were rolled out in the second half of last year and the discrepancies had occurred since this change.

A Ministry of Education spokesman said the writing test had been revised to make sure it was aligned with the curriculum. He said feedback from its users had indicated that the marks had been “mostly in keeping with the national norm. The ministry is considering what, if any further, action needs to be taken to respond to the results of the review.”

The Listener reported that some principals were concerned that less scrupulous schools might not question the higher results or even understand that the results had changed. This could boost their National Standards results and their standing in publicly available league tables.

The writing test was run by the ministry, and the reading test was developed and run by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research. Its general manager products and services Graeme Cosslett said his organisation stood by its revamped test. It had been trialled on 16,000 students in pilot programmes and national trials over two years. However, he acknowledged that NZCER could have improved its communication with schools over the reading test.

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