2016 NAPLAN tests show money failing to boost school achievement
Aug 03, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
NAPLAN results released today show student achievement plateauing in 2016 despite billions in extra funding flowing to classrooms throughout Australia.
Preliminary results for this year’s National Assessment Plan tests show little to no significant gain across age groups and demographics, and results for writing generally worsening.
The results have been hailed by education minister Simon Birmingham as vindication of his argument that higher funding levels do not directly equate to better student outcomes.
The preliminary results show an increase in reading scores across the country of 0.40 per cent since 2013, a decrease in writing scores of -0.20 per cent and an increase in numeracy of 1.26 per cent across all year levels.
Government figures show total education spending has risen by $3 billion to $16.05 billion over the past four years, equating to a 23.7 per cent increase in school funding.
“We need to focus on evidence-based measures that will get results for our students because today’s results once again show that, despite significant funding growth, we are not getting sufficient improvements in student outcomes,” Minister Birmingham said.
“This NAPLAN data clearly shows that while strong levels of investment in schools are important, it’s more important to ensure that funding is being used on initiatives proven to boost student results.”
Advocates of the Gonski funding model claim funding increases have not yet had time to produce results and that money initially flowing to schools was negated in part by the withdrawal of national partnerships spending.
The Coalition fully funded the first four years of Gonski, which increased funds to all Australian schools from 2013 to the present, but has abandoned a commitment to the final two years from 2017 - the most expensive component containing the lion’s share of needs-based funding for disadvantaged schools.
It has instead announced a schools funding boost of $1.2 billion over three years (around a quarter of the final Gonski figure for 2017-18) but has not specified how that money will be allocated.
Shadow education minister Tanya Plibersek said: “The first years of the Gonski school education funding were important, but they were just a fraction of what we intended to do in our schools to lift teacher quality, to invest more in individual students, to make sure that kids who were falling behind in maths or reading were able to catch up, to make sure that kids who were gifted and talented were extended.
“This is not a reflection of the implementation of the Gonski school funding arrangement, it’s a reflection of the fact that this Government has failed to fully implement a needs-based funding system.”
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli says international evidence shows it can take up to six years for reforms to show improved student results.
“The children who sat the NAPLAN assessment in 2016 had the benefit of only nine per cent in additional funding that the Gonski review found was needed to lift outcomes in all schools,” he said.
Peter Goss of the influential Grattan Institute policy think-tank argues Senator Birmingham is right in trying to move the debate on from funding models to improved academic outcomes.
“Simon Birmingham is always crystal clear that he believes in the principle of needs-based funding and he adds that the money needs to be spent in effective ways,” he said.
“And I agree with him strongly on both of those points.
“It does need to flow through into everyday quality of practice and I agree with him that we need to move beyond talking about the amount of money to understanding how teaching practice in every classroom can be improved.
“Money should be in service of improvements rather than for its own sake.”
While he highlighted some positives in the 2016 results, the chief executive of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, Robert Randall, said the lack of improvement on last year’s NAPLAN results was concerning.
“Plateauing results are not what we should expect or assume from our education systems. Literacy and numeracy achievement needs to improve to ensure the wellbeing of individual students and the country as a whole.”
The ACT, Victoria and NSW continue to be the best performing states, with long-term gains being made by Western Australia and Queensland following introduction of the national curriculum and in Queensland, a lower school starting age.
The Northern Territory continues to perform substantially below the national averages, with 44 per cent of Year Nine students achieving below the national minimum standards in writing tests.
Peter Goss says improved teacher quality is vital to Australia’s academic success but raising teaching course entry standards will only show results in the long-term.
“If we lifted teaching entry requirements today for every person going into a teaching course, in ten years’ time, that cohort would make up about one tenth of the teaching profession,” he said.
“It’s necessary but it’s far, far too slow.
“We must find ways of lifting the effectiveness of current teachers.
“Highly successful countries are very sophisticated in their approaches to continuously and relentlessly improving teaching practice for those already in schools - what they’re doing in the classroom, how well it’s working, how they can learn from others - and that’s for every teacher in every class, every day.”