National teaching unions are set to ban upcoming National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests. The move comes after newspapers in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne used information from the Rudd government’s “My School” website to rank school performances in so-called league tables.
“Branding schools as the worst in the state or failing on the basis of inaccurate data from snapshot tests gives them a reputation they don’t deserve and makes it harder to deliver the education children in these schools desperately need,” said Australian Education Union (AEU) President Angelo Gavrielatos.
Gavrielatos also makes the point that league tables have had a negative impact on school performance in both the United States and England. Both of these nations fare worse against international education standards than Australia.
Parents and citizens groups, principals and teachers all warned that the media would create league tables using the “My School” data. The website uses the results of the NAPLAN tests to compare schools.
The site claims to display “like” schools, but in reality the schools are often nothing like each other. The wealthy Kings School in Sydney is compared with a public primary school in the small town of Gundaroo near Canberra.
“The NAPLAN tests were never designed for this purpose and are too inaccurate. The fine print on the ‘My School’ website states that the test scores have a margin of error up to 34 points… The rankings do not reveal how effective teachers are in particular schools, regardless of whether or not the school is near the top or bottom of the rankings,” said Bob Lipscombe, president of the NSW teachers union.
Governments already have all the information they need to be able to direct resources to the schools that need them. Not properly meeting the needs of schools is a failing of governments, not schools or teachers.
The publishing of data is part of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard’s agenda of making teachers take the rap for years of inadequate funding and ongoing social disadvantage. Following the logic of the NT Intervention, Labor chooses to place blame on the victims—school communities and their teachers.
The NAPLAN tests are scheduled for May. Teachers will vote on implementing bans at further union meetings across the nation.
By John Morris

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