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Using PAT norms

Using PAT norms

Feature 5 minute read

ACER’s School Engagement team recently presented an informative webinar about defining, tracking and monitoring achievement with PAT. Led by Matt Bongetti, Senior Project Officer, the session detailed how PAT norms could be used to provide valuable insights into your students’ results.  

What are PAT norms?  

As always, to understand all aspects of PAT, it is key to understand the Progressive Achievement approach that underpins it. The norms provided in PAT support educators to utilise this approach by providing useful data to more fully understand their students' achievement.

PAT norms offer a comparison set of data to measure where students’ achievement sits relative to the rest of the Australian student population. 

What does the norm sample look like and how should that impact how I use it?  

Mr Bongetti explained that the norms reflect the achievement of ‘a sample group of students that represents the population of Australian students in a particular year level. These norms are collated from test sittings in October and November and take scale score results from tests completed by students within the norm sample. The results are then used to calculate the mean and spread of results for the population that they represent’.  

Mr Bongetti explained that the norm samples form a bell curve, with the majority of students ranking near the middle when compared to national achievement for their year level.

Students' ranking against the norm samples cannot be used to measure growth; they are only used to make a comparison to students across Australia. It is important to note that you may find that some students will achieve similar ranking each year, but this doesn’t mean they haven’t grown. Instead, it means they are improving at the same rate as the students they are being compared against.

 ‘PAT is not an assessment of the curriculum,’ explained Mr Bongetti, ‘it provides a point-in-time measure of learning achievement’.  

Scale scores are the best metric to inform learning achievement and progress because their level of detail clearly shows the change in student learning over a period and allows you to look a little deeper.  

For a deeper understanding of the comparative sample, it may be useful to review how the PAT norms were developed in the 2022 update. Considering the data and how it has been collated, it gives a behind-the-scenes picture of the wide range of information that is used to produce the norm sample, which, in turn, informs you about how to interpret that data and plan next steps for your own students.  

How should I use my PAT data and norms? 

Mean scale scores achieved by each year level within the norm sample can be used as a comparison to determine how the achievement of individual students within the same year level at your school compares to students in the same year level nationally. You can take one student’s scale score and compare it to the norm sample and see the corresponding percentile ranking.  

The Student report also displays a student's percentile ranking, along with the mean national scale score achievement of the comparison year level. In the Progress Report, you can monitor a student over several years and track their learning journey using the scale scores, while comparing your cohort's achievement over successive years to the national achievement of the corresponding year levels.

In the early years, students grow quite dramatically in terms of their learning. It then tapers off in those higher year levels. Remember: there is no such thing as an expected growth number. All students’ learning will grow at different rates. 

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