Kirsten Storry has a terrific oped in the Newcastle Herald (republished in Online Opinion). It concludes with her three-point wishlist regarding test scores:
If the Australian Government or Opposition want to score a few points with information-starved parents in their election campaign, here are my top three.
First, test all students from Grade 2 to Grade 7 at those schools in which a majority of children repeatedly fall short of the national benchmarks. Snapshots of years 3, 5, 7 and (from next year) 9 are not enough in schools in remote Indigenous communities where children can fall far behind in two years and can move frequently. These are the key learning years for fundamental literacy and numeracy skills and indigenous children in remote communities need these skills to have a fighting chance in secondary boarding schools.
Second, replace minimum benchmarks with performance bands in the National Report on Schooling in Australia. The current national benchmarks represent the minimum literacy and numeracy that children need to progress through school. But there is no magical line in the sand between literacy and illiteracy and the benchmarks do not represent the level of literacy or numeracy that children need to prosper.
Third, publish â€œvalue-addedâ€ school performance data, or at least make the data freely available to education policy researchers and economists who will happily analyse them. In some Cape York schools, the average child is falling nine months behind in reading for every year of school. Without the data, it is too easy to blame low school attendance rates for the entirety of the shortfall.
Kirsten also gives bouquets to the Western Australian government for being the only state or territory government in Australia to publish test scores. She’s right – but they do it in a very odd way. Their website only shows school results in a bar graph form, and a colleague of mine got a very firm ‘no’ when he recently asked them for the numbers underlying the pictures.