Australia Schools site to downplays focus on NAPLAN results
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Parents, students and educators will have less information on Australia's student literacy and numeracy testing program NAPLAN under a planned revamp of school information site MySchool.
The changes have been prompted by a recent review that found NAPLAN results were too prominent on MySchool and that data on student improvement was overshadowed by overall school results.
David de Carvalho, CEO of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, which administers NAPLAN and MySchool, said ACARA had clear instructions from education ministers.
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"Firstly, there's too much NAPLAN content on the MySchool website ... it gives it too much prominence," Mr de Carvalho told The Age Schools Summit last week.
"And secondly, we have to focus more on student gain, what the school is actually doing to improve students' results, as opposed to simply comparing the overall levels of achievement between statistically similar schools."
Mr de Carvalho said NAPLAN had "become this bogeyman and a catch-all for all kind of discontents, but we need to distinguish the NAPLAN test itself from the issue … of why it has become such high stakes compared to the standardised testing that was done prior to that.
"It's the school comparisons issue I think that is causing the most angst amongst principals and schools leaders, resulting in some of the high-stakes nature of the test and perhaps having some unintended consequences in terms of pedagogy [the study and theory of the methods and principles of teaching]."
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Changes to MySchool would alleviate this, he said, and were welcomed by Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan.
"That [how the data is presented] is a part of NAPLAN we all agree needs to be looked at," he said. "My hope is we'll have an agreement for better presentation of the data in December."
Jenny Atta, secretary of the Department of Education and Training, said the department was not aware of NAPLAN data being a "big issue in terms of shopping around for schools".
"We ... understand the concerns being expressed by schools and others about the way the data is being reported and the extent to which it could be used in what's really a fairly distracting and probably unhelpful sense in terms of league tables."
Maria Karvouni, principal of Auburn High School, said she supported a shift in focus from academic achievement to student improvement.
"This is where the reporting aspect can be improved," she said.
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Critics including the Australian Education Union say NAPLAN stresses students, has encouraged schools to narrow their curriculum to teach to the test, and encourages parents to shop around for schools based on student scores.
NAPLAN is also the subject of a separate review by Victoria, NSW and Queensland to see whether the test is working appropriately. Victorian Education Minister James Merlino has suggested students sit it one year later than now - in years 4, 6, 8 and 10.
But Mr Tehan accused NAPLAN critics of damning the test to distract from poor results.
Peter Titmanis, ACARA general manager of assessment and reporting, said focus groups and community surveys had shown that parents valued the opportunities to look at their children's progress through NAPLAN.
Mr Titmanis said the test also encouraged principals of similar schools to share best practice.
Literacy and numeracy are a "fundamental part of our education and there are lots of people like the Indigenous foundations who say literacy is freedom," he said.
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