13 November 2017:
Parents choosing their children's school can take months or even years. Private, public, and independent schools have their own pros and cons. The yearly fee for Australian elite private schools is now close to the minimum wage. Elisa and Wil are studying at Brisbane Grammar Girls and Boys schools. For Kim Douglas, mother, and Andrew Douglas, father, sending the kids private was not all about an academic result. Mrs Douglas says the Pastoral Care Program in these schools is excellent. However, it comes at a price. But Mr Douglas, father, says this is a commitment worth making. In Mansfield High School, a student says no money can buy the community spirit that they have. Karen Tanks, Principal, Mansfield High School, is proud that the academic mark of the school is in the top 10 of the state. David Gillespie, father, says there is no strong correlation between money and good academic results. He backs his research with a tool, My School website, available to all parents. The website shows the NAPLAN results. Sefton High School is outperforming surrounding private schools. In Northern Beaches Christian School, the thinking is outside the standards public school parameters. Stephen Harris, Principal, Northern Beaches Christian School, says a more relaxed learning environment is keeping phase with he modern workplace. He says they have to keep changing as the world is changing. The school is structured with lounges, breakout areas, and individual learning spaces. Back in the Douglas family, Mrs Douglas says there is no state high school in Brisbane that has single sex education. In terms of the pros and cons of private and education, in public schools parents feel they get connections to the local community, but they have larger class sizes and outdated learning materials. On the other hand, private schools tend to have smaller class sizes and have better materials and equipment. But some parents believe private has a more competitive environment which could stress some students.
Channel 9, Melbourne, hosted by Tracy Grimshaw
Immanuel Lutheran College principal, Colin Minke, says the value of NAPLAN testing is the benchmark it provides upon which to improve. Students in his school achieved consistently strong results in this year's tests across all parameters in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. "The trick is to blend the sorts of problems they are going to get... into the general curriculum,” Mr Minke said.
Caboolture News, "Schools' NAPLAN trick is to blend test into curriculum"
NAPLAN is an essential tool that we at Trinity Grammar School use to identify areas where our programmes could be reviewed and improved, and it also helps us to identify whether changes in our approach are having the desired impact on learning outcomes. We are also mindful not to allow NAPLAN testing to have a negative influence on learning opportunities, curriculum choice and student wellbeing.
"The relevance of NAPLAN in your son's education"
As a parent, I find it very useful to have the NAPLAN data on the My School website for comparative purposes and would like to commend everyone at ACARA for the hard work in making the data so readily available and easily accessible to everyone, particularly lay people like myself.
Our family certainly appreciate the data made available for a more informed decision-making.
Juliana Tang, WA
Over the seven years since NAPLAN was introduced, Queensland and WA schools have also raised the proportion of students who meet national minimum standards in reading and numeracy. In 2008 they were behind most other states but are now comparable.
Principal of Mount Gravatt State High School in Brisbane, Richard Usher, said his school has achieved improved outcomes by tailoring support to each student "clearly explaining the goals of each lesson to students, checking understanding and providing effective feedback in a consistent way across the school".
Australian Financial Review
Wantirna South Primary School, in Melbourne's eastern suburbs, was on the high gain list for improvements in numeracy in years 3 and 5.
Principal Wayne McDonald said the school was "due recognition for the hard work put in by staff".
"We're always striving to get better and by getting better the children get better," he said.
"Not every child's an academic, but if we get their literacy and numeracy right, then everything else will fall into place.
"If the children are happy to come to school then learning will take place."
St Mary’s Principal David Harris said the Woree high school strived for student improvement over time, with the Year 9 cohort achieving great results last year.
“NAPLAN as a standardised test provides the college with valuable base data for Year 7 and Year 9 students,” he said.
“The results can be compared to the ongoing classroom teaching and learning to assist the College in identifying some of its curriculum priorities.
“The format of the test also assists in preparing students for exam settings in later years.”
"The My School website presents a wealth of data about schools and how their students perform in NAPLAN tests," said Ms Spiller, the principal of St Aidan's Anglican Girls' School in Brisbane.
Coniston Public, which had an enrolment of just 208 students last year, made the ACARA’s high-gain schools list after lifting its 2016 NAPLAN scores in reading.
“We’re extremely pleased with the result,” Principal Karen Brown said.
Ms Brown said NAPLAN was a “useful snapshot” to see how the school and its students were progressing.
Tanunda Primary School Principal Michelle Barnes was complimentary of the test [NAPLAN], and said it gave a good measure of where her school and others were at.
“We look for similar patterns, maybe that we noticed that lots of kids are struggling with something like sentence structure or solving tasks,” she said.
Ms Barnes said that the results can assist the school in planning for the future.
“We would use that to make decisions about our focus for the remainder of the year or next year; we look for patterns to help us, and to see what measures of our teaching are really effective,” she said.
“It gives us a snapshot of where our kids sit in relation to other schools around the state and country.”
Ms Barnes said NAPLAN assisted parents and teachers to help students outside of the classroom, and where they could improve as well as to strive towards a higher potential.
“With parents we can look at the information provided and help give them information about what they could do at home, to help their kids in areas where they’re struggling, or extend them in areas they are showing potential in,” she said.
Ms Barnes uses the data to further help her teachers as well as students, with NAPLAN assisting areas to further improve teachers and where they were excelling.
“We use a range of different tests; with something like literacy, we have spelling tests and a reading comprehension test,” she said.
“It can give you specific teaching points.
“It may be the child is having problems inferring information when they read which isn’t directly stated, so the teachers will then look and think ‘okay, perhaps we need a particular program which helps pull out information that’s not directly stated within the test’.
“You can use it to pull out particular teaching points, and focus on that to give students who are requiring some additional help some extra support.”
Renmark West Principal Judy Cottam said the strongest improvements were made by Year 7 students.
"It was significant that over three years our year sevens had managed to improve and show really good gains," Ms Cottam said.
"It indicated that something was happening in the other year levels that was gradually strengthening their literacy skills.
"It showed that some of the initiatives we put into place are actually paying off and we are seeing some positive results."
"We looked really closely at the NAPLAN tests and how to best support students to understand the questions being asked and to break the questions down because many questions involve multiple sets of skills which students have to master."
Wodonga West Primary School Principal Jocelyn Owen feels it has merit and is valued by parents.
"I think it's a really valid tool which we use with our other assessment tasks," she said.
"It helps us to validate where the children sit and I would believe it's quite accurate.
"It can inform us of where gaps are in our curriculum.
"If we have students that don't perform well on a particular question we can look at closing the gap.
"We can look at boys versus girls and the relative gain which shows how our students have grown from year 3 to year 5."
Congratulations and thank you for your work. We find the My School data and the analyses it enables (e.g. between similar schools) immensely useful.
Professor Eleanor Ramsay, University of Tasmania