Saturday, December 19, 2009

NAPLAN results released

Today the NAPLAN results were released for 2009.

They show the major reason students in low socio-economic regions do not do as well as in more affluent regions. As has been suggested on many occasions, it has little to do with teachers, but more to do with geographical location, tied to value parents put on education.

It is well known that more people with higher levels of education live in affluent areas. Now we can see the results of these accumulations of educated people.

Average Year 9 NAPLAN results nationally (examining parental education)
Mean Parental Education (band that the mean falls in)
631.2 Bachelor degree or above (band 7)
596.7 Advanced diploma / diploma (band 7)
577.6 Cert I to IV (band 7)
586.5 Year 12 or equivalent (band 6/7)
556.5 Year 11 or equivalent or below (band 6)
578.2 Not stated

(Band 5 is the minimum benchmark in year 9)

For example - students with parents that have bachelor degrees have a mean NAPLAN score of 631.2. Students with parents that dropped out of school in year 11 or below have a mean score of 556.5. This is an important (and obvious) finding as it can be used as a factor in putting forward students for advancement in early years (and draw attention to potentially underperforming students).

Students with strong parental support do better (on average a whole band higher). Parents that have the ability to provide educational support typically live in affluent areas. Which leads to the whole anti-NAPLAN arguement. Putting more money into low socio-economic schools will not even the spread of scores - nor will naming and shaming schools that cannot do it.

Sadly, the rich will get richer. Unfortunately, to compete in the global economy we need these people.

On another front, the difference in teaching standards between states do not provide anywhere near the parental influence difference and we acknowledge that teaching standards between states are a major factor in student performance. Yet we are pursuing a costly and ultimately ineffective national curriculum. We are trying to identify better teachers for low socio-economic schools (how insulting to the good ones already there!). We are trying to fix a problem but have identified the wrong cause!

We are a diverse country that has diverse issues, with large geographical issues - no quick fix political solution will ever exist.

If money is to be put anywhere to ameliorate the issue - it has to be into before/after school hours/holiday/year 13 programmes and the provision of similar support as provided by affluent parents from age 4 onwards. In many cases this is impractical, costly, wasteful, unwanted interference in the school/family/community relationship (and will likely degrade this relationship further in struggling families than it is now). It is not a quick fix - prone to constant criticism and not politically expedient.

In the metropolitan area, only generational change and gentrification of areas will allow families to raise themselves out of poverty. It takes effort, pride and time. This opportunity is a part of the Australian way and this is what needs protection and valuing.

This is the real role of schools. Pride in self and community in positive ways.

In Australia - unlike other countries, the poor get richer too! Fortunately for us, in comparison to the global economy, the majority of our poor are doing well.

Our government is doing well if our standard of living continues to improve - it is the only real measure of progress. This is where their focus needs to be, not on micro-management of education. Us going backwards does not raise the standard of living of poorer countries - it raises our ability to give assistance.

Do-gooders are not doing anyone any 'good' by supplying NAPLAN information. We need to wind back the release of specific NAPLAN results now, before more unseen damage is done.

Full results of NAPLAN summaries can be found here. Community results are due in May.

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