This report examines the Performance Indicators in Primary Schools (PIPS) test as a reliable and cohesive instrument to assess early literacy and numeracy skills among Indigenous children. The process includes the examination of the reliability of the PIPS test using the Cronbach Alpha and the Split-half method with Pearson's r correlation co-efficient and the Spearman-Brown correction. Individual items are examined to ascertain their discrimination indices and their item difficulty levels. These analyses reveal that some items of the instrument should be revised to improve its suitability to assess early literacy and numeracy skills. Total scores on the two major item sub-groups are correlated with the total scores to determine the overall cohesiveness of the instrument. In spite of some possible improvements this report indicates that overall the PIPS test is a highly reliable and thus adequately valid instrument to assess early literacy and numeracy skills among Indigenous children.
The team believes that hearing loss due to otitis media may affect the development of auditory discrimination and processing skills and as a consequence may reduce phonological awareness, short-term auditory memory skills, auditory sequential memory skills and thus numeracy and literacy skills. They sought answers, among others, to the following questions.
The following instruments were examined to determine their suitability: the Kimberley Standard English Vocabulary Test (Brandenburg, c.1984); the Phonological Profile for the Hearing Impaired Test (Vardi, 1991); the Western Australian Action Picture Test (Kormendy, 1988); and The Hundred Pictures Naming Test (Fisher & Glenister, 1992). All were rejected for a multiplicity of reasons, including unsuitability of language, complexity of administration, length, difficulty of assessing K to Year 3 reading skills, or because they were considered outdated.
After careful consideration and close examination, the reading tests contained within Neil J. Waddington's (2000) Diagnostic Reading and Spelling Tests 1 & 2 (Second Edition) were chosen because these tests appeared to be simple to understand and the language appeared appropriate for Indigenous children in K through to Year 2. The items depicted relevant and current items to be recognised such as balls, horses, fish and the sun etc. The tests are easy to score. The use of pictures with a three option multiple-choice item narrowed choices and aided statistical analysis. The test was examined by three researchers, who all agreed that the face validity of the instrument appeared suitable for assessing the reading ability of Indigenous children. A small pilot study was also conducted with promising results (see Godfrey, Partington & Sinclair, 2001; Godfrey, 2003a; and Godfrey, 2003b).
Unfortunately the administration of the Waddington (2000) tests to Indigenous children produced a wide divergence of opinion. These differences of opinion may have been based on the location of various schools. For example, at a meeting in a remote school district those responsible for the educational welfare of Indigenous children in the district were clearly opposed to the Waddington tests being administered to Indigenous children. These strong opinions were due to perceptions that the test contained numerous inappropriate, culturally biased items. On the other hand a few days later the same researcher was informed by the Principal of a Perth metropolitan school that Waddington tests are regarded as an important instrument for the assessment of students (including Indigenous students) in the school. (G. Partington, personal communication, July 26, 2001).
These and similar reactions of teachers of Indigenous children and Indigenous educators to Waddington tests led the CHL Research Team to examine other suitable instruments to assess early literacy skills among indigenous children. After careful consideration and a thorough examination of the content validity of the more recent, widely used and computer based PIPS instrument, it was chosen as the instrument to assist with the assessment of early literacy and also early numeracy skills among Indigenous children.
|Type of school||Class|
|Pre-Primary||Year 1||Year 2|
|Aboriginal Community School||2||1|
|State Primary School A||3|
|State Primary School B||2||5||5|
|State Primary School C||4||4||7|
The results of the pilot study, in spite of the small sample available, indicated that the test is reliable with a Cronbach Alpha coefficient of reliability of 0.95. An analysis of the items indicated that most items were operating with positive discrimination values and with difficulty levels within acceptable levels. Ten items were of concern. However the researchers decided not attempt to remove or revise any items as the sample was small. It was therefore decided to administer the PIPS instrument to a larger population of Indigenous children in the light of the high co-efficient of reliability and the apparent suitability of most items and to re-examine the reliability and items after the first administration of PIPS.
|Type of School||Metropolitan||Country||Remote||Total|
The second round of testing was carried out towards the close of the school year to endeavour to gain an indication of development in literacy and numeracy skills; that is to gain "value-added" scores. The first and second tests were administered by the same researcher to ensure comparability in administration conditions. Unfortunately, due to student absenteeism, illness and transfers to non-participating schools, matching scores for individual Indigenous students were only available for half the number of those tested during the first administration of the instrument.
An item analysis to obtain discrimination indices (DI), difficulty indices (DIFF) and an indication of the contribution of the item to the instrument (ICI) are calculated with the majority of the PIPS items using the EdStats computer program (Knibb, 1995). Some items proved to be unsatisfactory for analysis using the EdStats program and finally a total 132 items were analysed.
Correlations using Pearson's r correlation coefficient were calculated between the overall total score, reading (literacy) total score and mathematics total score of individuals on the first administration of the test with their corresponding score on the second administration of the test.
Finally a simple comparison of the means of the total scores on the two administrations of the PIPS test was conducted to ascertain whether there was change in the test scores of candidates on the two administrations.
|Standard Error of Measurement||3.25|
The DIs indicate that the correlation between the scores on the item and the total scores is positive for nearly all items. The DIFFs of the selected items reveal that these items are very difficult for this sample of Indigenous students. On the basis of NRT analysis it would be advisable to revise or remove from the instrument a number of the items listed in Table 4. However, most of these items are discriminating among the participants and thus add information regarding the literacy and numeracy of the Indigenous candidates. Notwithstanding, it is clear that the Sum B items number 13, 14 and 16 with both DIs and DIFFs of 0.00 add no information regarding the numeracy ability of the students. They should be removed from the instrument.
|Items||DI Range||DIFF Range||ICI Range|
|Walk 1-18||0.22 - 0.43||0.01 - 0.05||0 - 2|
|Maths 2; 5-8||0.21 - 0.55||0.01 - 0.12||0 - 3|
|Sum B 9; 11-16||0.00 - 0.35||0.00 - 0.04||0 - 2|
|Memory 5-7||0.11 - 0.35||0.01 - 0.07||0 - 3|
The discrimination indices for some of these twenty items are a cause of concern with DIs of 0.00 due to the items being too easy of too difficult with DIFFs of nearly 1.00 or 0.00. Most if not all of these items need to be revised or removed from the test for they add little, if any, information regarding the ability of the candidates. Notwithstanding, some of these items serve a useful purpose in the instrument, for example, the items Kitchen 1 to 3 and the two Classroom items appear early in the test and their ease gives candidates confidence with the computer based instrument. The Memory items 6 and 7 are the last two items in an instrument of nearly 150 items and it would be expected that only a few candidates would answer them; thus their DIFFs are close to zero.
|Items||DI Range||DIFF Range|
|Kitchen 1 - 3||0.02 - 0.06||0.97- 0.99|
|Classroom 1- 2 0||05 - 0.09||0.97- 0.98|
|Sizes 1 - 6||0.00 - 0.10||0.83 - 0.98|
|Maths 5-8||0.02 - 0.09||0.01 - 0.04|
|Sum B 12-16||0.00 - 0.01||0.00 - 0.02|
|Memory 6-7||0.01 - 0.05||0.01 - 0.02|
|Note: Mastery Level set at 50%|
The correlations between the individual total scores of the 89 students who completed both assessments indicate that the instrument has a very high correlation between these pairs of scores and thus a very high test-re-test reliability (0.88; see Table 6).
|Total 1||Total 2||Reading 2||Math 2|
The correlations between reading scores on the first and second administration of the test for each candidate and the correlations between mathematics scores on the first and second administration of the test for each candidate are very high; 0.85 and 0.84 respectively (see Table 6). These results indicate that the two major sub-sections (reading and mathematics) of the test have high test-retest reliability. Both these subsections correlate highly with the total scores of each administration of the test (reading 0.99 with administration 1 and 0.99 with administration 2; mathematics 0.93 with administration 1 and 0.89 with administration 2; see Table 6) and thus indicate that the major sub-sections significantly contribute to the reliability of the instrument.
|Test 1||Test 2||Change|
An interesting feature of the structure of the PIPS test is that the difficulty levels of the items in each of the sub-groups are mainly hierarchical in value. Generally, it appears that the subgroups are Guttman scales and the large majority of the PIPS items appear to conform to a Rasch measurement scale (Godfrey, 2003a). However these results are tentative and need to be the subject of further more thorough analysis with a larger sample size.
The results of this sample of Indigenous students tested with the PIPS test may assist with the ongoing debate regarding suitable assessment instruments to use with Indigenous children and the testing of Indigenous children with standardised tests in general. The complaints of Indigenous people should not be directed in the first instance at the use of standardised instruments but most bitterly at the misuse and misreporting of the results of standardised testing and the unfair, often subtle assessments made of Indigenous children by school personnel without the aid of reliable and valid instruments (see Godfrey, Partington, Richer, & Harslett, 2001; Godfrey, Partington, Harslett, & Richer, 2001). The problem of assessment will not dissipate; it is a feature of modern society to assess most areas of behaviour and achievement. If the assessment and the associated instruments are culturally appropriate, valid and reliable, then Indigenous communities and parents should welcome such evaluation programs. Indeed, carefully constructed evaluation programs have been used to support programs that have aided the education of Indigenous children (Cataldi & Partington, 1998). To succeed in the 21st century Australian Indigenous children need to be participants in these educational evaluation processes. The National Strategy for the Education of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples; 1996-2002 (Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, 1995) realises the importance of assessment to Indigenous education programs. It lists as one of the strategies for both Early Childhood Education and Schooling, "Formalise assessment procedures, strategies and instruments which appropriately reveal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children's achievement" (Strategies 5.2.6.e & 5.2.6.s).
To lessen the legitimate concerns of Indigenous Australians in regard to assessment procedures researchers need to adhere to measurement procedures such as: ensuring that a pilot study of any instrument is conducted before using it on the wider Indigenous community; comparing the results collected over time from valid and reliable instruments to ensure the long term usefulness of the results; and using the results of valid and reliable instruments to compare various groups within Australian society in order to assist educationally and socially those sectors that are disadvantaged.
In short, it is essential to work through the problems associated with various types of tests and assessment programs in general to ensure that accurate and valid instruments and assessment programs are established and maintained to allow Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators to be well informed of the achievements of Indigenous children and Indigenous educational programs "beyond even reasonable doubt" (Cataldi & Partington, 1998, p. 325). Educators should accept that assessments in their various formats are necessary and comparisons need to made between sections of Australian society to highlight both deficiencies and achievements and thus overcome the deficiencies and apply those principles that assist students to achieve (see Drew, 2000).
Cataldi, C., & Partington, G. (1998). Beyond even reasonable doubt: Student assessment. In G. Partington (Ed.), Perspectives on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education (pp. 309-332). Katoomba: Social Science Press.
Drew, N. (2000). Psychological testing with Indigenous people in Australia. In P. Dudgeon, D. Garvey & H. Pickett (Eds.), Working with Indigenous Australians: A handbook for Psychologists (pp. 325 - 333). Perth. Guanda Press.
CEM Centre, University of Durham. (2001). Performance Indicators in Primary Schools: Baseline Assessment 2001 (Australian Edition: Edith Cowan University).
Fisher, J. P., & Glenister, J. M. (1992). The Hundred Pictures Naming Test. Hawthorn: Australian Council for Educational Research.
Godfrey, J., Partington, G., Harslett, M., & Richer, K. (2001). Attitudes of Aboriginal students to schooling. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 26 (1), 33-39.
Godfrey, J., Partington, G., Richer, K., & Harslett. M. (2001). Perceptions of their teachers by Aboriginal students. Issues in Educational Research, 11(1), 1-13. http://www.iier.org.au/iier11/godfrey.html
Godfrey, J., Partington, G., & Sinclair, A. (2001). To test or not to test?: The selection, adaptation, administration and analysis of instruments to assess literacy skills among Indigenous children. Proceedings of the Australian Association for Research in Education Conference held in Fremantle, 2nd to 6th December. http://www.aare.edu.au/01pap/god01617.htm [verified 5 Oct 2004]
Godfrey, J. R. (2002). An analysis of the Performance Indicators in Primary Schools (PIPS) instrument to assess early literacy skills among Indigenous children: A pilot study. Refereed paper presented at the Australian Indigenous Educators Conference held in Townsville, 4th to 7th July, 2002.
Godfrey, J. R. (2003a). Report on the administration and analysis of the Performance Indicators in Primary Schools test to assess literacy skills among Australian Indigenous children. Round Table discussion held at CEM Centre, University of Durham, Durham, 15th July.
Godfrey, J. R. (2003b). The selection, administration and analysis of Performance Indicators in Primary Schools instrument to assess literacy skills among Indigenous children. Paper presented at the Tenth International Literacy and Education Research Network Conference on Learning held at Institute of Education, London University, 14th to 18th of July.
Knibb, K. (1995). EdStats. Version 1.0.5. Available from Edith Cowan University.
Knibb, K. (1996). EdStats User's Guide. Mount Lawley: Mathematics, Science & Technology Education Centre, Edith Cowan University.
Kormendy, M. (1988). Western Australian Action Picture Test. Available from author at Edith Cowan University, Perth.
Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs. (1995). National Strategy for the Education of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples; 1996-2002. (P. Hughes, Chairperson). Canberra: Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs.
Vardi, I. (1991). Phonological Profile for the Hearing Impaired Test. Perth: Iris Vardi.
Waddington. Neil J. (2000). Diagnostic Reading and Spelling Tests 1 & 2 (Second Edition). Strathalbyn, S.A: Waddington Educational Resources.
|Authors: Dr John R. Godfrey is an Honorary Senior Fellow in Kurongkurl Katitjin, the School of Indigenous Australian Studies at Edith Cowan University
, Perth. He has published in reading comprehension testing, academic dishonesty, assessment in religious schools, history of Australian assessment change, Indigenous education and teacher receptivity to change. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Ann Galloway was the Director of the Project Teaching Indigenous students with conductive hearing loss. Her research interests include language and literacy development and discourse analysis. She currently holds an Australian Research Council Post Doctoral Fellowship Industry in Kurongkurl Katitjin, the School of Indigenous Australian Studies, Edith Cowan University.
Please cite as: Godfrey, J. R. and Galloway, A. (2004). Assessing early literacy and numeracy skills among Indigenous children with the Performance indicators in primary schools test. Issues In Educational Research, 14(2), 144-155. http://www.iier.org.au/iier14/godfrey.html