ACARA news, June 2015

ACARA’s new Board Chair: Emeritus Professor Steven Schwartz AM

24 June 2015

Minister for Education and Training, the Hon. Christopher Pyne MP, today has announced Emeritus Professor Steven Schwartz AM as the new Chair of the ACARA Board.

“Professor Schwartz will provide an ‘experienced pair of hands’ as ACARA’s work enters its next phase,” Mr Pyne said.

“[He] couldn’t be better placed to take on this challenging role given his excellent record as an outstanding educationalist and is highly regarded as an organisational leader, known for his vision and strategic leadership skills.”

ACARA CEO, Robert Randall, also welcomed Professor Schwartz’s appointment to the Board.

“Professor Schwartz brings extensive experience in the education sector to his new position as ACARA Board Chair. He has served as a vice-chancellor and president of three universities (Macquarie and Murdoch Universities in Australia, and Brunel University in England). A prize-winning researcher, teacher and author of 13 books, he is also the executive director of the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Science and a director of Teach for Australia – an organisation that aims to give all children the best chance in life through an excellent education.

"I look forward to working with Professor Schwartz and am confident his expertise, vision and leadership will help ACARA to build on our achievements and continue to improve the learning of all young Australians,” Mr Randall said.

ACARA also welcomes four new ACARA Board members who are replacing outgoing members: Dr David Howes from Victoria; Ms Jayne Johnston from South Australia; Mr Paul Hewitt from NSW; and Dr Tim McDonald from the National Catholic Education Commission.

Incoming ACARA Board members

20150706 New board

Left to right: Dr Tim McDonald from the National Catholic Education Commission, Mr Paul Hewitt from NSW, Emeritus Professor Steven Schwartz AM; and Dr David Howes from Victoria [Ms Jayne Johnston from South Australia was unavailable on the day of photography]

Read the minister's media release

'Your school' supplement in The Australian newspaper

20 June 2015

ACARA was established to develop a national curriculum, manage the national assessment program and report on schooling nationally – all with the intention of improving learning opportunities for all young Australians, wherever they attend school. The My School website is a key channel for reporting on schooling. Schools, teachers, parents and the wider community can use the quality data on My School to discuss the achievements of schools. Importantly, My School was developed to enable fair comparisons to be made among schools with statistically similar groups of students with the intention of celebrating success or identifying areas for improvement.

We believe that the vast majority of people value what My School offers to education in Australia and use it wisely and with care. My School is supported across Australia by policy makers who understand its value and its power. It provides comprehensive and comparable data on an open website to anyone, anywhere who wishes to access it.

In 2014, ACARA commissioned Colmar Brunton to conduct research with parents, principals, partners, and parent and principal representative groups about My School.

We were not surprised to read that the research established that parents appreciate having a range of information about schools available in one accessible place, in a format that is relatively easy to navigate and understand, but acknowledging some scope for improvements. The report also showed My School is used by parents as intended, as part of a suite of information sources to make informed decisions about their child’s education.

ACARA has been releasing data on My School since 2008. We now provide seven years of valuable data in one location allowing for comparisons of results from schools with students from similar socio educational backgrounds using the index of community socio-educational advantage (ICSEA) scale. It is ICSEA that enables fair comparisons to be made between schools with statistically similar groups of students.

In 2014 and again in 2015, during My School updates, ACARA released a list of schools across Australia that had demonstrated ‘high gain’. The methodology used to identify these ‘high gain’ schools was carefully defined and refined to ensure that schools chosen were achieving gain across three distinct standards: a large overall gain, high gain compared to schools with similar groups of students and/or high gain compared to students at similar NAPLAN start points. The gain also had to be a significant gain, being one standard deviation above the average. In doing this, it is important to ac’knowledge that fewer schools might be identified in WA, QLD and SA due to year 7 being in primary school in 2014 for these states.

While ACARA will continue to highlight schools achieving a statistically significant gain, to celebrate the success of these schools, we continue to oppose simplistic, unfair and unhelpful league tables. We believe that publication of data that enable fair comparisons is important. It facilitates open conversations and allows for the sharing of lessons and learnings between educators about school achievements and ultimately supports and drives improvement nationally.

My School has been a positive force in Australian education, a point made by ACARA’s inaugural Chairman, Professor Barry McGaw AO who recently ended his tenure as Chairman of ACARA after eight years of exceptional leadership. As he exited ACARA he made this statement “My School has been a game changer. My School takes away the easy excuse and introduces challenge for us".

Mr Robert Randall
Chief Executive Officer
Australian, Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority

ACARA Update June 2015 issue out now

09 June 2015

In this month’s issue, we farewell ACARA Chair Professor Barry McGaw AO; look at the steps being taken to improve the Australian Curriculum; announce the public consultation for the Turkish and Hindi language curricula; and take a look at a project that aims to get students more engaged in STEM.

Read the latest ACARA Update

Robert Randall presents at EduTECH

05 June 2015

ACARA CEO, Robert Randall, recently gave a presentation at EduTECH in Brisbane.

EduTECH is the southern hemisphere's largest education congress and ed tech expo, bringing together all sectors of the education and training industry.

See Rob's presentation on the digital technologies curriculum and the move to online assessment (PDF 1.5 mb)

STEM projects bring subjects together

03 June 2015

How do you get students more engaged with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects? Thirteen schools around the country are being supported to investigate and document an integrated approach to teaching and learning STEM in Years 9 and 10 – showing how individual subject skills can be brought together and applied to a specific school project.

Read more about the STEM Connections project in this month’s issue of ACARA Update.

Education Council meeting outcomes

01 June 2015

The Education Council met in Brisbane on 29 May 2015 for its second meeting of the year. During the meeting, the Education Council thanked Professor Barry McGaw AO, who retired from the ACARA Board effective 7 May 2015, for his outstanding service.

Professor McGaw had chaired the ACARA Board since the Authority commenced operation in 2009. He has overseen numerous important developments, including the establishment of the Australian Curriculum, the development of the My School website, and the successful administration of the National Assessment Program.

Read the Education Council meeting's communiqué (PDF 255 kb)