Wide Range Achievement Test, Fifth Edition (WRAT5) - Case studies
By Caroline Read, Founder Communicate-ed, Specialist Teacher and Access Arrangements Assessor
Brief summary: the WRAT5 and the Detailed Assessment of Speed of Handwriting (DASH) were used to assess whether Joan, aged 14, qualified for Examination Access Arrangements in her GCSE exams.
Joan is a year 9 student, aged 14 years 3 months who attends a Secondary School in southern England. She was referred for assessment as a number of her teachers had commented that she needs help with reading in class and is unable to complete timed activities involving a lot of writing in the time allowed. She often needs to take work, which her peers can finish in class time, home to complete.
Joan has had a history of difficulties. She was known to the Special Needs Co-ordinator at her primary school, having had additional literacy support in a small group. Joan was granted a reader and 25% extra time for her Key Stage 2 National Curriculum Tests.
On arrival in secondary school, all year 7 students completed a group assessment to ascertain their underlying ability. The school used the Cognitive Abilities Test: Fourth Edition (CAT4) which provides an indicator of verbal, non-verbal, mathematical and spatial reasoning abilities. Results from this battery of tests placed Joan in the low average range, with the following standard scores: verbal reasoning: 89, non-verbal reasoning: 87, mathematical reasoning: 85, and spatial reasoning: 89.
In Year 7 an Individual Learning Plan was put in place for Joan. This noted the need for reading support in class. Joan works in small classes for all core subjects. Some of Joan’s teachers report that they read text aloud to the class, rather than expecting students to read to themselves. There is a teaching assistant allocated to most of Joan’s lessons, and though not specifically employed to support Joan, she confirmed that she often helps Joan with tasks which involve a significant amount of reading. Joan also asks the assistant to check that she has noted down her homework tasks correctly.
As noted above, four of Joan’s teachers report that she is regularly unable to complete tasks in the time allowed. She writes slowly, but can write legibly, with attention to punctuation and spelling when given extra time. Spelling is weak, but most errors are recognisable as the target word. Where possible, teachers allow Joan extra time to complete tasks, or to take work home to complete.
The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) produce guidance on the requirements for Access Arrangements for General Qualifications in the form of the ‘Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments (AARA)’ document. In order to qualify for Examination Access Arrangements, students with learning difficulties must be assessed by a qualified Access Arrangements Assessor. They require below average standard scores (i.e. below 85) on assessments appropriate to the arrangement in order for it to be granted. Applications are made by the SENCo through the JCQ Access Arrangements Online system, which, if approved, will cover all subjects entered by the student for all JCQ awarding bodies.
Joan was referred for such an assessment by the school’s SENCo, who was following up on the evidence provided by teachers that she has difficulties in class which are appropriately supported.
Using the WRAT5 subtests Joan achieved the following scores: Single Word Reading: 86, Reading Comprehension 83, and Spelling 82. Though the single word reading score is too high (in the low average range), the below average reading comprehension is sufficient, alongside the evidence of reading support in class, to successfully apply for a reader. Joan’s spelling score, though below average, is not relevant here, as even when spellings are incorrect, they are recognisable, as she produces reasonable phonic approximations. However, Joan’s score on the DASH Free Writing (a scaled score of 6, equivalent to a standard score of 80) places her speed of handwriting in the below average range, and enables the SENCo to apply for 25% additional time.
For many students needing Exam Access Arrangements, in particular extra time, additional assessments of phonological awareness, processing, or memory, plus visual processing and/or working memory would be required. However, Joan has achieved the required scores needed to apply for the relevant arrangements using the WRAT5 and DASH, so no further testing is needed.
The SENCo went on to made the appropriate applications and Joan was granted 25% extra time in assessments with a significant amount of writing and a reader. As Joan is still only in year 9 the plan is to give her training and practice in the use of reading software, so that when it comes to year 11 exams she will be proficient in using a computer reader, rather than a human reader. This will enable her to work independently and has the added advantage of being allowed in a paper (or sections of a paper) assessing reading, such as English language. A human reader cannot read to a student in papers assessing reading ability.