New test to stop students falling through cracks
A new report has backed the need for “light touch’’ national literacy and numeracy checks to be rolled out for Year 1 students to ensure no child is slipping through the cracks.
It finds “early success in reading and number sense is a powerful predictor of later achievement’’ but also warns that a large numbers of Australian children are not meeting the expected results and standards in literacy and numeracy.
One in 20 students in Year 3 did not meet the national minimum standard for reading and mathematics in last year’s National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) and this underachievement often spills over into adulthood.
The report by the panel, chaired by education expert Jennifer Buckingham, recommends a Year 1 literacy check, concentrating on phonics, and a numeracy check be implemented. The assessments could be conducted in term three after students had completed almost 18 months of formal schooling.
The “light-touch’’ and lowcost checks would be quick fiveminute one-on-one assessments done by a teacher familiar with the child, and would not be a NAPLAN-style high pressure, high-stakes test.
Instead, the assessments would screen whether children were learning the building blocks they needed to develop the literacy and numeracy skills pivotal to future schooling successful. Results would be rapid to identify students needing extra support.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham said: “Australia cannot afford to follow the status quo in schooling. We’ve seen national and international tests that highlight while Australia has an excellent education system, our results have stagnated or even declined in some case.
“This report plainly highlights the need for action. The evidence is clear that phonics and numeracy checks will boost outcomes for Australian students.
“Importantly, these skills check are not expected to be a confronting test but rather a lighttouch assessment that ensures teachers, parents and schools know at the earliest possible stage if children aren’t picking up reading or counting skills as quickly as they should, enabling them to intervene rapidly.’’
The findings makes clear that by Year 3, the first year of NAPLAN tests, “it is difficult, expensive, and inefficient to remediate gaps in literacy and numeracy skills that prevent full engagement with the curriculum in middle primary years and beyond’’.
The panel therefore recommends adopting and adapting the successful phonics screening check used in Britain for Australian Year 1 students, and stresses that individual school results should not be identifiable, published or compared with other schools, teachers or children.
Dr Buckingham, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Independent Students and director of the FIVE from FIVE project, said “phonics and early numeracy skills are really highly predictive of children’s later reading progress … While we know schools are doing assessments broadly in terms of literacy and numeracy in the first years of school, none of the assessments we looked were strong enough, particularly in the areas of phonics.
“The phonics screening check does not duplicate what the states and other systems in schools are already doing. It’s providing extra information that is not being collected at the moment.’’