HUNTER schools have been singled out as achieving ‘‘above average gains’’ in their NAPLAN results, after making changes including employing new teachers, restructuring their programs and shifting student attitudes.
The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) will update the My School website on Thursday to reflect each school’s performance in the NAPLAN testing last May, as well as seven years of performance data for comparison.
ACARA this week identified four Hunter schools – St Philip’s Christian College at Salamander Bay, St Mary’s Primary at Scone, Mount Hutton Public and Hamilton North Public – on its list of 51 NSW schools as having made ‘‘above average gain compared to schools with similar students’’.
‘‘Schools able to achieve high NAPLAN gains are to be acknowledged,’’ said ACARA general manager of assessment and reporting Stanley Rabinowitz.
‘‘While these schools have been identified according to a rigorous methodology, ACARA does not have any information regarding the specific instructional activities that led to these gains.’’
At St Philip’s Christian College, principal Timothy Petterson said it was ‘‘very encouraging’’ that his year nine students of 2014 had achieved ‘‘significant uplift’’ in numeracy since they were last tested in year seven.
Dr Petterson said when he arrived at the school, there had been little time invested in understanding the value of NAPLAN data.
‘‘The junior school was humming along, the middle school was not humming along and the high school was disadvantaged,’’ he said.
‘‘We thought, ‘These students deserve better, we need to look at this’.’’
Since then, the primary-school trained teachers who were juggling maths, english and science educating middle school students from years five to eight have been replaced with secondary school teachers who specialise in one learning area.
‘‘The other key thing we’ve done is change student mindsets about the testing,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve encouraged them to do the best they can rather than seeing it as another day at school without applying themselves.
‘‘I’m reluctant to prepare the students for this with practice testing, it’s really designed to be a point in time test to see how these kids are going.
‘‘But we do spend time talking about bringing the right equipment and planning to be there on time.’’
Mount Hutton principal Steve Gately said he was ‘‘thrilled’’ that his year five students of 2014 had improved in reading since they were last tested in year three.
He said the gains could be attributed to diverting Gonski and Resource Allocation Model funding to enhance teacher professional learning ‘‘where they drill down into what they need to focus on to improve student outcomes’’.
Funding has also been used to increase school learning support officer time, buying classroom resources and improving school tone, such as how it looks and feels.
Hamilton North relieving principal Kelly Deakin said her year five students of 2014 improved on their year three results in numeracy after the school made the subject a focus of its plan three years ago.
‘‘We’ve also worked on programs and planning of maths sessions that address specific outcomes and meet individual students needs.’’
Newly arrived St Mary’s principal Jim FitzGerald said his colleagues restructured the uninterrupted block of time devoted to literacy each day to help year five students in 2014 improve in reading, compared to when they were last tested in year three.
The restructure included ensuring equal time was spent on different skills such as reading, writing and composition and also help students continue to improve the same skills through higher grades.
‘‘We also put greater emphasis on how we plotted and tracked student progress throughout the year so we could intervene – or extend them– when necessary,’’ he said.
Inclusion on the list was based on each school’s overall gain compared to previous years; gain compared to schools with similar students based on the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage level; and gain compared to other students at similar NAPLAN start points.