Showing posts with label NAPLAN. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NAPLAN. Show all posts

Monday, May 2, 2011

IOTY nomination 2011

The IOTY has been won by Julia Gillard before, but she continues to make a fool of herself to draw headlines away from real problems, by creating new ones.

Her latest brainwave is to reward teachers that improve NAPLAN scores.  Hey, I'm all for taking money from the government for doing nothing.  Let's see how it will work.

Year 7 teacher gets a bunch of students that have fallen behind.  He works hard with them but he has no hope of preparing these kids for massive improvement before the test.  They are tested in May 2011 and perform miserably compared to their 2009 Year 5 NAPLAN scores.  Sorry.. no bonus for you.   Regardless, with the support of a great administration he continues to work with his kids and they improve dramatically.

The next year the year 8 teacher is good too and the kids continue to improve in 2012.  Sorry... no bonus for you. We don't test NAPLAN in year 8.

One year nine teacher focuses on teaching the kids how to solve NAPLAN problems.  These kids do very well at NAPLAN in May.  Job well done, the teacher plays guitar the rest of the year, the kids learn very little and the teacher gets a nice fat bonus.  Upper school?  That's someone else's problem.

Another year nine teacher for similar kids focuses on what year 10 students need to understand and provides a sequenced course.  Her NAPLAN scores are not as good but are a more accurate representation of the level of the students.  No bonus for you.  She is invited to find a new job next year as she is under performing despite being popular with kids, parents and upper school teachers.

Upper school teachers get jacked off with the system and start applying for middle school roles.  Teachers in the upper school become less skilled and results suffer.  Nobody really cares because school performance is measured primarily through the 10 months of NAPLAN teaching rather than over the whole 5 years.

Of course this is based on gross speculation, but considering her past performance and lack of ability to heed advice or public opinion, a more than likely scenario.

Julia Gillard, you truly deserve to be renominated as Idiot of the Year for 2011.  You are an idiot.

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.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

School report cards

Last year Julia Gillard forced through school report cards to be made available based on the statistically questionable NAPLAN results. She stated that league tables would not be made from them.

Anyone with an ounce of sense realised this was nonsense. Then she linked agreement to funding - "Do it or else!"

Here is an excerpt from what the report cards are to look like:

Through a simple examination of the card you can see that each school is compared to all schools and to a socioeconomic band.

It is a five minute job to create a league table from this! Promise broken Julia!

It would ignore improvements to the school, discourage entry to the school and undermine any improvement model as students entering the school would be of declining standards (better students would go to the better performing school despite overcrowding/bullying/lower teaching standards etc.)

Of more concern is the second part of the page:

Of interest is the last category: % indigenous students.

What ?? Why should it matter that there are indigenous students in a school?

If we are to encourage students to become Australians, why single out any one portion of the population, why not caucasians, South Africans, Sudanese, Italians or Chinese. Remember this idea is from the minister of social inclusion!

Teaching staff ratios are also misleading. What are teaching staff doing? Quasi administration/pastoral care, specialty positions such as HOD on 0.6, GIRL or GIRN positions, in low ratio classes such as ESL/additional needs.

Whilst we are considering these factors how do refugees, ESL and additional needs students impact on NAPLAN results and school performance? Should they be discouraged from entry to avoid poor results?

This whole concept is just a bad idea. Poor over generalised statistics, designed to mislead the public and is a populist vote grab. This sort of information is best kept within the education system and used for valid statistical purposes until it can be presented in a valid and straightforward way to the public - personally I don't believe this can be done, it is just too complex.

If you are interested in reading more, here is the link to the mySchool website.

Updated 18/11/2009: Seems I'm not the only one concerned. Click here and here.

Updated 18/11/2009: Seems Julia is also the Minister of "wasting public funds", "rhetoric" and "denying the obvious". Click here to read her address on education.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Understanding reports in WA

I am often asked to interpret reports of friends children and explain to parents what the report really means. I am no expert on writing primary reports but I am critical of the lack of transparency in school documents and the degree of technical literacy required to understand them.

Reports are one of those things that have been bastardised by bureaucracy and politics. To be honest their usefulness is limited in their current form unless you are a teacher or bureaucrat. Even as a teacher, the variance of grading between one teacher and the next is too great making the data unreliable and thus is rarely referred to. Here are two cases that recently presented themselves.

Scenario A
Student is in year 7, has been given an excellent report. He has a level three in Maths and English and is finding school boring and too easy.

Q: Is my student doing ok?
A: Probably not. If they are level 3 and finding school easy then they are not being extended enough. Asked student to record what they did today in paragraph form (not dot points). Spelling accuracy was limited. Student was writing without an understanding of conjunctions, limited punctuation and was writing very slowly. Student could not recall last book longer than 10 pages read. Student could not recite 4 or six times tables. Student had limited understanding of order of operations.
Remedy: Indicated that parent needed to take greater interest in performance of student. Suggested student complete homework at kitchen table each night with parent assisting and providing additional examples to complete. Indicated a few books that the student may like and indicated that parents reading with them would be a good idea. Suggested methodology for learning tables and order of operations.

Level 3 is the minimum level a student should be getting in year 7. You would expect students to be completing a variety of level 4 tasks in year 7. Sadly many teachers are only teaching level 3 material. This is very evident when talking to primary teachers at PD through their lack of understanding of level 4 tasks in mathematics.

Scenario B
Student is in year 4. He is the top of their class in mathematics and performed well in NAPLAN testing. He has been given a B. The student is distressed as they expected an A.

Q:Huh? How can this be?
A:Back in the day when we were students, results for a class were scaled to a normal distribution - each class had a few A's, a few more B's, lots of C's, a few D's and a student or two earmarked for being held back. Sadly this is no longer the case. If a teacher does not teach the 'A' material (for whatever reason defined by that abomination smartie chart), an A will not be given, the same goes for B's, C's, D's & E's. In this case this is what has happened. NAPLAN testing at this level is more IQ testing than progress testing which is why this result was consistent with student and parent expectations.
Remedy: I supplied printed copies of progress maps and pointers for mathematics and links to sample items for the next NAPLAN test. Suggested parents consider looking at level of student and work at assisting student understand material at the next level.

It may sound ok to define 'A' material and provide an 'A' consistent with students across the state until you consider that in some low socioeconomic schools if grading was done consistently with curriculum framework directives, no student would get higher than a C for the first years of schools whilst they caught up to their contemporaries in more affluent schools. Even gifted students (but lacking environmental support) get discouraged as they try to overcome their lack of support at home and get C's despite making large jumps in knowledge and applying themselves. Although the idea of A-E grading was good, the application was poor. For low ability students in lower classes - they may never get higher than a D despite a great work ethic and working at a level consistent with their peers.

The solution? Provide normalised results for each class on reports (allowing students to get grades in relation to their peers) and use NAPLAN tests to show progress in relation to other schools with expected ranges for university and TAFE entry. Duh!

(Addendum 30/1/2008: It is interesting to note that the West had an informative article on just this topic today.. details of the article can be found here (half way down the page) by Bethany Hiatt titled "Parents need lessons on the grading system". Yes I am being positive about a media article - must be the optimism and endorphin spike associated with the start of a new year.)