More time for teaching with PaCT, trustees told

Using the Progress and Consistency Tool (PaCT) allows teachers to do less formal testing, school trustees have been told by one of the principals.

The trustees were gathered for the annual New Zealand School Trustees’ Association (NZSTA) and heard that the introduction of PaCT had encouraged teachers to teach a broader curriculcum than previously. During the three years that the school had been using PaCT, teachers reported having been able to completely replace the old summative assessment (testing) tools with the new framework.

It was important for teachers to establish the credibility of the PaCT framework for themselves and gain confidence in using it. Implementation had meant running their traditional assessments in parallel until it was obvious that the results of both systems were the same. Teachers were now confident in assessing progress and achievement directly from student work using the PaCT and has discontinued test-based assessment. Instead they were using students’ actual classwork to assess progress and achievement in class, and this had freed time previously spent on testing to allow more teaching time. Assessment was done using student work across the curriculum including science, social studies and the arts as students needed to use their reading, writing and maths skills in every subject to communicate what they knew.

Testing nor required in primary schools
Primary schools are not obligated to test students, only to provide an overall teacher judgement (OTJ) of their achievement. A range of assessment tools are used to help teachers make these judgements, but until now there has been no consistent tool that applies right through a student’s primary schooling, years one to eight. 

PaCT was introduced in response to concerns from schools about the reliability and validity of national standards data. PaCT allows teachers to map their knowledge about a student’s progress to national standards by providing illustrated examples of each curriculum level in each aspect of reading, writing and maths.

Using the PaCT framework, teachers identify the national standards they believe a student is achieving at OTJ then work through the illustrations to confirm or amend that initial judgement. Staff are able to share with each other if they want a second opinion.

Nationwide results show that 93 per cent of initial OTJs are confirmed by the teacher without amendment. More than 400 schools are now using the framework with another 400 expressing interest in implementing it.

A staged implementation plan is recommended to ensure that introducing PaCT is effective and does not add to teacher workloads in the long term.

Consistency, not uniformity Using the PaCT framework provides consistency, not uniformity says NZSTA president, Lorraine Kerr. Using PaCT is voluntary and there is no “one right way” of using the framework. Instead, each school decides how they want to use the tool.

Boards of trustees have a responsibility to ensure that students in their school get the benefit of the whole curriculum, and there have been some “speed wobbles” trying to get the balance right, but it appears that the work done by officials and sector groups to ensure that assessment practices support the richness of the whole curriculum are beginning to pay off, says Ms Kerr.

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