Testing time for schools

May 16, 2018

Zeerust Primary School Year 2 student Narley O’Donoghue and Year 4 student Mia Ponting enjoy reading with their principal Dr Peter Farrell. Zeerust Primary School is one of several small schools in our region dealing with changing needs and fluctuating population numbers.

NAPLAN tests began yesterday for years 3, 5, 7 and 9 students across Australia.

Testing skills in numeracy, reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, NAPLAN is run by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority as a way of measuring a school’s students’ performance.

Enforced by the Gillard government in 2008, it was also created to improve teaching in the classroom.

However, according to Monash University senior lecturer and Southern Cross University Associate Professor David Zyngier, the testing has become more of a comparison tool for parents looking for schools.

‘‘When it was first brought in, it was never supposed to compare schools to one another in a public way,’’ the curriculum expert said.

For many schools in the Goulburn Valley, NAPLAN scores are not publicised due to the low number of students in school.

‘‘For many of these schools the data isn’t made available because the margin of error is greater than statistical variation,’’ Dr Zyngier said.

If there are numerous students who perform poorly, the average, or ‘‘mean’’, will be skewed and create a higher percentage of students sitting in the lower percentage.

‘‘It just means the results may not be particularly relevant,’’ Dr Zyngier said.

‘‘You really need to have at least 200 students for the results to not be skewed.’’

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