Since 2008, Australia has had a national assessment program for literacy and numeracy (NAPLAN), providing objective, nationally-comparative ‘point in time’ data to governments, schools, parents and the public on how students and schools are tracking on these essential learning foundations. It replaced standardised literacy and numeracy tests at the state level that had been in place for almost 20 years but were difficult to compare and not available to the public or external researchers. It is not an authoritative, holistic assessment of the capacity or quality of a student, teacher or school. Nor is it a high stakes test – students are not penalised for poor performance and NAPLAN results do not effect the remuneration of individual teachers. NAPLAN is a diagnostic tool to assist school leaders and policymakers deciding how to allocate resources and tailor programs and strategies to maximise learning for their students. It also provides objective “snapshot” data to parents and teachers on how individual students are tracking, and an extra piece of information – objective data – to assist them deciding which school to send their kids, rather than relying solely on visits, advertising materials, at times sensationalist media and hearsay. While NAPLAN’s objectives are very worthy, misconceptions over the test and an over-emphasis on it by a small minority of parents and schools has raised serious concerns. I joined Senator Penny Wright on ABC television’s News Breakfast program on 28 March to discuss the Senate Inquiry into these concerns. Here’s the segment and the report. I also discussed whether MySchool be abolished on ABC’s Radio National on March 7.
UPDATE: As I predicted a week ago, “Gonski” is not gone. The Abbott government announced today (2 December) that it would maintain the Gonski reforms – including the new needs-based funding model – and would honour the funding agreements Rudd and Gillard had made (well, for the first four years at least, with Victoria among others vowing it would continue to fight and negotiate to see the full six years – and full funding amount – covered). It also announced “in principle” agreements with the governments of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, stating that they would also be funded according to the Gonski model, although with fewer conditions attached. Depending on the details – which are yet to emerge – this could be a closer reflection of the Review’s recommendations that the Commonwealth pay greater respect to the states’ responsibility and expertise in schooling policy.
Australia’s new federal education minister Christopher Pyne has caused a storm with his announcement that he would seek to undo the Gillard-Rudd government’s National Plan for School Improvement (aka “Gonski” reforms). This would include rewriting the funding agreements his predecessors forged with the governments of NSW, South Australia, the ACT, Victoria, Tasmania, and the Catholic and independent school sectors. This is much easier said than done, and thus a most unlikely outcome. For more information on the legal and political barriers facing Pyne, you can read my analysis piece in Crikey, listen to my national radio interviews with the ABC’s PM program and the Wire, or catch me on the ABC’s current affairs television program The Drum.
I’ll be discussing the future of the “Gonski” reforms on Radio National’s Sunday Extra on December 1 and on Life Matters on Tuesday December 3. Podcasts will soon be available on program websites and my media page.
PS. The Final Report of the Gonski Review of School Funding been removed from the federal education department’s websites due to Machinery of Government changes (departmental restructuring), but you can access a copy right here. Enjoy!
A quick expert comment piece I wrote for the Election Watch website, putting the Coalition’s long-anticipated education policy – including the controversial Independent Public School proposal – under the microscope.
If you’d like to know more about Independent Public Schools you can listen to my interview on the topic on Radio National’s Life Matters program where I’m joined by the author of a report into Western Australia’s initiative. I also strongly recommend the latest book by Brian Caldwell, an academic guru on the subject and former Dean of the University of Melbourne’s Education Faculty. (Disclaimer: I just discovered that he devoted two pages to discussing and endorsing my research on Victoria’s ‘self managing school’ reforms and the influence of federalism.) A lovely compliment. Mine is the only study of these reforms from an intergovernmental perspective and you can read it here. (Photo: Gary Ramage, Sarah Blake media, Twitter).