NAPLAN: Should we be worried about the latest results?
The latest results from NAPLAN certainly aren’t encouraging: overall, there’s been no significant improvement in literacy and numeracy among Australian students since last year.
One of the concerns is that there has been a significant decrease in writing results for years 7 and 9 since 2011.
The question is what this means for education policy in Australia.
The Government says it’s concerning
Education Minister Simon Birmingham told the ABC that these results have plateaued “at a time of record and substantial growth in school funding”.
There’s been a 23 per cent increase in federal funding for schools since 2013 as a result of the Gonski reforms. While some experts say it will take time to see the full benefits of this, Mr Birmingham says we should nevertheless have expected to see continued improvements.
He told ABC’s AM that funding will continue to be increased under the Turnbull Government, with more of that extra funding going into public than private schools.
But he added:
Surely we have to reach a point in this discussion where it’s not just about how much money is spent. It is about the types of reforms that we need to get the best outcomes for our students.
He thinks outcomes can be improved by:
- incentivising teachers to go to schools where they can make the greatest difference
- ensuring there are minimum standards in place for future teaching graduates
- intervening earlier when children are having learning difficulties
He says these are the types of reforms that his Government will be implementing over the next few years as it looks to improve results.
The Opposition says it just shows the need for Gonski
Labor’s education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek agrees that the results are disappointing.
She was asked on AM how she explained the plateauing of outcomes given that the first few years of Labor’s Gonski funding model have gone ahead.
This is how she responded:
The first three years of the Gonski school education funding were important, but they were just a fraction of what we intended to do in our schools to lift teacher quality, to invest more in individual students, to make sure that kids who are falling behind in maths or reading were able to catch up, to make sure that kids who are gifted and talented were extended.
This is not a reflection of the implementation of the Gonski school funding arrangement. It’s a reflection of the fact that this Government has failed to fully implement a needs-based funding system.
She says in the final two years of the Gonski reforms – which the Turnbull Government has not committed to funding – that she expected to see a “take-off in improvements”.
Ms Plibersek says other changes by the Turnbull Government have had a detrimental effect:
They also retreated from the demands that we made of states about how they would use that extra funding, the transparency and accountability measures that we had.
In fact, they gave extra funding to some states with no strings attached that saw some states then decrease their own investment in education at a state level.
Teachers have questioned the overall value of NAPLAN
The Queensland Teachers’ Union has already reiterated its misgivings about the NAPLAN system – despite the fact that Queensland itself was one of the better performers in the latest results (along with Western Australia).
Kevin Bates, president of the union, says the data is of questionable benefit for students and will be inappropriately used by commentators and politicians:
NAPLAN is still just a point-in-time test that may provide some broad indication of how an education system is performing on the five general areas tested.
In truth, the nature of the NAPLAN tests is tainted by a gross imbalance between the cost of the tests and the value generated from the outcomes.
Mr Bates says teachers would prefer that the $100 million spent on the tests each year be spent on additional education resources instead.