Grade 7 results point to change

Grade 7 results point to change

NAPLAN results have shown that Queensland is behind the national average

Primary school students in a classroom

Students preparing for an exam

Grade 7 NAPLAN results from this year reveal that New South Wales, Victoria, and ACT are again performing above the national average academically while Queensland lags behind.

Across the five testing criteria Queensland is below the national average in all assessment areas.

To further break this down, Australian education ranking website Better Education lists the top 10 high schools in Australia and they all come from NSW and VIC. Rankings for primary schools were more diverse with a mix of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and one Queensland primary school in the top 10, Brisbane Grammar School.

That puts one school from the sunshine state in the top 20 nationally despite being the third most populated state.

Corey Mitchell from The Smith Family, an organization that helps disadvantaged youth adjust with education, says other factors need to be taken into account.

“One factor that does contribute to Queensland’s results, similar to that of the Northern Territory, is the decentralized nature of QLD and its cultural diversity. NAPLAN testing has its flaws.”

The Northern Territory has consistently ranked last in the rankings by a fair margin. NAPLAN results show that Indigenous students score lower than their non-Indigenous counterparts. In NT this statistic is highlighted by a NAPLAN summary.

“The percentage of Indigenous students achieving at the national minimum standard is less than half that of non-Indigenous students in all domains,” said Mr Mitchell.

Australia in the past have primarily put the states and territories in control of their own funding and curriculum. This has resulted in multiple differences across the states and territories.

However this is changing with the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority currently overseeing the introduction of the Australian Curriculum into Queensland schools and nationwide from this year and finishing in 2014.

This year the Queensland Government announced that Grade 7 in Queensland will shift in 2015 from primary to high school.

They say these changes are a part of their long term plan for education reform. Their official website for the reforms, A Flying Start for Queensland Children, argue that because half the children in grade 7 are already 13 that “young teenagers are ready for greater independence and the depth of learning that high schools provide.”

NSW has consistently ranked in the top three states since NAPLAN testing begun in 2008.

A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Education and Communities said QLD making the shift can only be a good thing.

“The current enrollment arrangements in NSW have been in place for a long time and there are no plans to change them. The ongoing introduction of the National Curriculum will benefit through national alignment.”

The closest Australian education has had in national standardisation is the National Assessment Program. Their website states that “NAP is the measure through which governments, education authorities and schools can determine whether or not young Australians are meeting educational outcomes.”

This measurement is assessed through annual nationwide exams across grades 3, 5, 7 and 9 and referred to as NAPLAN. It tests reading, persuasive writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy.

NAPLAN testing began in 2008 and has since been used to rank schools with the introduction of the controversial My School website in 2010.

Debate has raged in the media since the introduction of NAPLAN and much has been made about its effectiveness and accuracy.

Critics of the testing point to the fact that it places pressure on schools and teachers to deliver results in areas that may not fit with existing curriculum and its focus is on results and not learning. Also it is restricted to what NAPLAN assesses which does not include subjects such as history, the arts, or physical education.

NAPLAN and My School may be criticised but they have been a factor in Queensland’s education reform.

South Australia and Western Australia are the only other states currently teaching grade 7 as a part of primary education but WA will also make the switch in 2015.

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* Based on 2012 NAPLAN Summary Report available here