Was it a Success?
After looking at my mid year and running record results, I considered my inquiry to be a success. I had used text analysis and exemplars to support my students to identify various writing techniques. They were able to identify structural and language features, their purpose and discuss why the author had used them. They had made the connection between reading and writing.
I had also increased the complexity of the texts that my 12.5 + readers were focussing on and increased the number of texts per week for remainder of the class. To support the complex texts, I was facilitating debate and rich discussion. With help from Dr Jannie Van Hees, I was encouraging my students to notice and use rich vocabulary.
My running records displayed solid shift (note, our running records are run by relievers/ reading support teachers to rule out teacher bias). On average, my students moved 17 months, which includes the three students who were already at the end of the Probe testing kit.
The bulk of this testing was completed in the first few weeks of term four, so I felt confident when my students went to take their PAT reading test that they would achieve similar results... They did not.
I did sense that many of my students weren't having the best day when we took the test - it was muggy, we had an unsettled start to the day and some of the student's were a little emotional. However, it wasn't that way for all of them and you'd still expect them to do relatively well considering their previous shift.
Some of my learners with the biggest shift who were focussed on the day, did show good acceleration in the PAT test. One learner who made two years progress moved from a stanine 6 to an 8, and another from a 7 to a 9. However, many displayed expected shift, staying around the same stanine and eight students got the same or 1/2 points higher than they had at the start of the year.
One reason for this could be that their first test was inaccurate - that they are guessing a number of the answers and getting lucky. Another could be the students test taking skills. A number of students commented that they started to feel overwhelmed in the test and gave up or started skimming and scanning instead of reading the texts. It is definitely obvious that I need to work more on building their resilience next year. I'd also be interested to see how they would do at college at the start of the year to see what they would be like if they took the test on another day.
This also supports Nicola Wells' hypothesis, that the PAT tests do not always accurately reflect student progress. In fact, when interviewing the students who made the biggest shift in PAT's, the top activator admitted that they had mostly guessed their answers in the end of year test! Read more about her findings here.
My hunch is that it is a mixture of poor test taking, guess work/ inaccurate T1 tests and they style of the test that has produced these results. I believe that because my students are used to focussing on one test at a time and going into a lot of depth, they do well at running records which suit this style but struggle with PATs where they read several texts in 40 minutes. They are also not scaffolded by any discussion as they would in reading lessons, so perhaps it is important to get them to independently make sense of texts more often in preparation.
This will be something to consider for next years programme!