As I mentioned the other day, my current South Sydney Herald job is to write about the My School site and “league tables”. I will be referring in that to local schools, especially Darlington Public School and Cleveland Street Intensive English High School.
Just a couple of points to note here for you — and for my own use later on.
1. The “statistically similar” schools thingie really is a joke, isn’t it?
On the site it says “This is a measure used to compare schools with a similar student population. The measure enables the achievement of students in similar schools to be fairly and meaningfully compared.” No such luck. In yesterday’s Australian Justine Ferrari rightly nails that one.
In forming groups of statistically similar schools to compare student results on My School, the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority has matched students’ home addresses to census data to determine the social characteristics of the students.
Although the census includes information on households with school-aged children, ACARA decided not to use this information and instead used the information for all households in the neighbourhood.
The authority used the data to develop an index to account for differences in student backgrounds that affect educational achievement, called the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage, which accounts for 68 per cent of the variance in student results.
But Ben Jensen, school education research director at the Grattan Institute, said it excluded factors known to significantly affect schooling, including whether English was spoken as a second language, if the children were new to the school, refugees, had learning difficulties or disabilities and whether the school was academically selective.
Dr Jensen said the ICSEA assumed that the average socio-economic characteristics of the areas in which students lived represented the true circumstances of the students within a school…
Education consultant Peter Knapp, who ran international school tests for about 10 years through the University of NSW, said:”It would be preferable to develop an index based on school enrolment data that provides information about the real students in that school.”
Spot on! While Sydney Boys High, for example, is in Moore Park Surry Hills very few students there come from Surry Hills. Rather the geographic centre of the school’s clientele is probably somewhere near Ashfield, with students coming from a considerable range of feeder schools — in the past from as far away as Liverpool. So no matter how admirable the stats for Surry Hills might be they have no relation at all to the students at SBHS, or indeed to the students at Cleveland Street.
2. Teaching to the test
Of course with parental expectations and school funding at stake there will be an irresistible move towards teaching how to score in NAPLAN — and such coaching is not at all hard. Coaching colleges will do a roaring trade. Schools, as one would expect, are also getting in on the act. Today’s Sydney Morning Herald reports a clear sign of this pressure at work.
— See also NAPLAN tests and My School: one size doesn’t fit all on Crikey.
Important comment from Marcellous
Marcellous has forced me to look again at the socioeconomic stats on My School. See My School ICSEA TECHNICAL PAPER 20091020.