Broaden student assessment focus – principals

Broaden student assessment focus – principals
In a push to reverse Australian schools’ declining results, the Federal Government announced a panel to ensure that school funding is being used on evidence-based initiatives that are proven to boost student results.

The final report and recommendations from the panel overseeing the ‘Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools’ will be provided to the Federal Government by March 2018.

With the public submission process drawing to a close this week, the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council said its submission “highlights the fact that public schools in NSW are already achieving many outstanding outcomes”.

“Our students are engaged in innovative, challenging and creative learning programs and I am continually impressed by the dedication of the teaching profession to ensure we adapt to prepare students for a rapidly changing world,” NSWSPC president, Chris Presland said.

Pointing to increasingly complex challenges facing schools, such as AI and automation, Presland said he hoped the NSWSPC’s submission provides the panel with “an alternative framework for understanding educational success”.

“If we are committed to preparing young people to be lifelong learners in the 21st century, we must also recognise that learning and assessment is more than simply literacy and numeracy,” Presland said.

“We need a broad view of student, school and systems success which recognises the wide range of skills, capabilities and interests of students.”

‘A more nuanced understanding’ needed
The NSWSPC’s recommendations include that the panel adopt “a more nuanced understanding of what constitutes knowledge and learning”.

Presland said this includes providing students with the opportunity to foster both academic and vocational skills in learning, assessment and accessing further tertiary study.

The NSWSPC’s recommendations include recognising that performance measures for all students in all sectors must take into account that the current Gonski 2.0 funding model allocates for need within sectors and not across them.

The submission also pointed to the risk that this will undermine the integrity of any improvement measures that are correlated to individual student, school or sector funding or that compare students and schools across sectors.

“The diversity of learning starting points for students must also be acknowledged, particularly in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage, and the impact this has on educational outcomes,” the submission read.

The submission also recommended establishing an “expert educational panel” to undertake research into the best practices in student assessment for secondary education.

“The panel should provide guidance for the design of a broader set of school and system based measures and benchmarks.”

Catholic schools highlight challenges
Brad Gaynor, who was recently appointed the new president of the Australian Catholic Primary Principals’ Association (ACPPA), said the recommendations that will result from the Review will be “a key challenge” for Catholic schools.

“ACPPA believes it is important to have time to embed effective practices around teaching and learning, not constant new initiatives and ‘one off’ programs,” Gaynor told The Educator.

Gaynor said that fully understanding and negotiating the new Gonski funding model will be a challenge, adding that the legislation will increase the expected fee for Catholic primary schools.

“This remains unsettling for many school leaders and parents, and the anxiety and pressure it is causing is worrying, and principals have had to support communities with this,” he said.

“We seem to be in spiral of funding action plans and reviews resulting in confusion and fear of what we are able to provide for families in the future.”

Gaynor said differential treatment between the three educational sectors regarding funding is “harming relations between all parties” and “widening the gap of sharing valuable resources and knowledge to improve all student outcomes”.

“Governments need to value all education sectors and fund them to the national average of each,” Gaynor said.

Related stories:
‘This is not a time to have a crisis of imagination’ – expert
NSW has ‘world’s best school funding model’