What ACARA’s new strategic plan means for schools

What ACARA’s new strategic plan means for schools

In September, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) announced it had updated its strategic plan with some small but very important changes.

The move, approved by the Authority’s board last week, signals a shift in how it will drive improved teaching and learning in Australian schools in coming years.

ACARA CEO David de Carvalho said the Authority’s updated vision statement – “Inspire improvement in the learning of all young Australians through world-class curriculum, assessment and reporting” – is important for several reasons.

“While this change of adding “inspire” at the start of the vision statement seems small, it signals and highlights an important aspect of ACARA’s work – that we don't improve outcomes solely through our own efforts,” de Carvalho told The Educator.

“But we are also doing this by supporting and inspiring the people who are working directly with students – the teachers and school leaders who ultimately make the real difference in the lives of children and young people, fanning the flames of wonder.”

de Carvalho said the other important and related change to ACARA’s Strategic Plan is the addition of “Innovation” to its values. 

“What this signals is that we are focused on doing things differently, improving the way we do things, being a learning organisation,” he said.

“This is only appropriate for an organisation whose purpose is to support learning itself.”

ACARA, which runs the controversial NAPLAN tests, has recently been under increased pressure by some states to axe the regime.

In August, the latest round of NAPLAN results revealed a mixed report card for Australia’s schools, with noticeable improvements in student writing outcomes but little improvement in test scores across the board.

While ACARA’s priorities for 2019-2022 include continuing the transition of NAPLAN Online, the Authority has flagged “refining” the Australian Curriculum and strengthening its collaboration and engagement with all stakeholders and jurisdictions.

In September, the governments of Victoria, NSW and Queensland released the terms of reference for their own separate review of the controversial test.

The terms include defining the objectives of standardised testing; improving support for individual student growth and school improvement; and improving information for parents on school and student performance.

The review – the sixth since the test began in 2008 – will determine the broader objectives of standardised testing and assess how well NAPLAN is meeting those objectives, as well as looking at alternatives.