Saturday, July 21, 2018

NAPLAN and Mathematics

A new report released by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel has underscored the importance of the ­beleaguered NAPLAN test for shining a “spotlight” on strategies to lift the nation’s declining mathematics performance.
Schools can turn around students’ maths results within two years by adopting highly effective approaches identified through extensive analysis of NAPLAN data, the research paper, released by Dr Finkel’s office yesterday, argues.
Successful schools have a classroom focus on mastery and understanding key concepts, leaders who highly value the subject, and they use data to monitor students’ progress.
The findings, which come from research by the University of Tasmania, stem from analysis of 619 primary and secondary schools nationally that showed out­standing improvements in their ­NAPLAN numeracy scores over a two-year period.
The paper describes NAPLAN as “a spotlight for improvement”.
Dr Finkel said that while he was reluctant to weigh in on the ­NAPLAN debate — which has seen the Education Council announce a review of the way data is publicised — the research wouldn’t have been possible without access to such data.
“Data is important if you want to … improve,” Dr Finkel said. “For example, we’ve learned the … importance of leadership. Of the hundreds of schools (analysed), every single one had a senior leader or head of maths that pushed the importance of the subject.”
The research also confirmed that 90 per cent of successful schools used data to better understand their students, classes, ­cohorts or the school, with some schools using ­NAPLAN data to identify misunderstood concepts to focus teaching.
The endorsement comes as NAPLAN has been under attack from unions and some states.
The government has recently endorsed in principle a recommendation from the Gonski review into education that would see the development of an online learning tool that would closely track student learning progress and could supersede the ­NAPLAN regime.
Centre for Independent Studies education policy analyst Blaise Joseph said the report was a good example of how NAPLAN data could be used to identify best practice and be used to help the school system improve.