Post-Primary Assessment & Diagnosis – English (PPAD-E) Standardisation

The ERC is collaborating with the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) to standardise an assessment of English literacy skills, called the Post-Primary Assessment & Diagnosis – English or PPAD-E. The study is led by Mary Nugent (Regional Co-ordinator, NEPS) and Jude Cosgrove (ERC). NEPS is responsible for liaising with schools and administering the assessment, while the ERC is responsible for the sampling of schools to take part, the administration of the fieldwork, and scoring, analysis and the creation of national ‘norms’.

It is envisaged that this study will result in a test which may be administered directly by school staff.

The need for PPAD-E

The PPAD-E has been developed by NEPS in direct response to needs identified by schools.

Currently, tests of English literacy in use in post-primary schools are typically tests with UK or US norms. These tests have a number of limitations, such as their high cost, cultural inappropriateness, limited utility/narrow focus, time consuming nature (many individually administered), poor ability to differentiate between very weak or very able readers, and inappropriate age ceilings.

NEPS psychologists, through their ongoing work in schools, are aware that schools want a tool which is cost-effective, easy to administer and score, and can be used for a range of purposes. The PPAD-E is intended to be used from First Year intake across the age-range in post-primary schools. It is a screening and diagnostic tool that assess literacy skills consisting of five subtests.

Design of the PPAD-E

The complete test package includes five subtests:

  • Word reading
  • Spelling
  • Reading speed
  • Reading comprehension
  • Writing samples.

All but the Word Reading test are group-administered  (Word Reading is individually administered). The assessment requires an hour to administer, plus 3-4 minutes per student for the Word Reading test.

Purposes and benefits of the PPAD-E

The purpose of this study is to ‘standardise’ the PPAD-E and refine procedures for administering and scoring it so that it can be used by teachers across all post-primary schools in Ireland.

It is anticipated that schools will enjoy multiple benefits from using the new PPAD-E, once it is standardised. The standardised test will be:

  • culturally appropriate and tailored to the Irish context
  • designed for use by teachers
  • accompanied by tools and materials that enable test administration, scoring and interpretation of test results for individual students
  • linked to evidence-based interventions
  • suitable for considering eligibility for an exemption from Irish
  • helpful for screening for difficulties (particularly at first year intake)
  • useful in diagnostic assessment, monitoring and evaluating progress
  • helpful in providing data for RACE/DARE, and
  • useful in establishing and reviewing standards.

Design of the PPAD-E standardisation study

The ERC has drawn a nationally representative sample of 80 post-primary schools. In each selected school, one First Year class is selected at random to take part (yielding approximately 2,000 participants). NEPS psychologists administer the assessment with support from school staff during Q4, 2019. Following scoring and analysis, participating schools receive a report of results in late Q1 2020. The work of NEPS and the ERC is supported by a Data Processor Agreement, with all appropriate information and safeguards under GDPR in place.

Future Developments

It is hoped that PPAD-E will be available to all post-primary schools from Q4 2020.

Future work on the PPAD-E is likely to entail the establishment of norms for other age and year groups, as well as an online version of some parts of the test.

Contact: ppade@erc.ie