Colin Barnett

Colin Barnett

-

    Literacy and numeracy levels rise again this year in WA schools

    20/11/2000 2:37 PM
     
    20/11/00

    The results of this year’s literacy and numeracy tests show the vast majority of our State’s Year Three and Five students are performing at or above national and State benchmark levels.

    Releasing the results of the 2000 Western Australian Literacy and Numeracy Assessment at Victoria Park Primary School today, Education Minister Colin Barnett said papers revealed, on average, 87 per cent of students were meeting or exceeding benchmarks in reading, writing spelling and numeracy.

    Mr Barnett said in broad terms this represented an increase from an average of about 80 per cent in 1998 and 85 per cent in 1999.

    The results showed, compared with 1999, more children were performing above the benchmarks in reading and writing while slightly fewer students were meeting the benchmarks for spelling and numeracy.

    “At face value the results seem to show that children have made a great improvement in reading - up to 10 per cent for the Year 5s,” the Minister said.

    “But the problem at this early stage of the testing program - 2000 is the third year of the tests - is that we’re still bedding down the national equating process.

    “It would be misleading at this point to read too much into a year to year comparison of these benchmark figures but nevertheless there has been a clear and significant rise in literacy standards.

    “Obviously, the fact that every child in WA has access to kindergarten and pre primary - because of the State Government’s significant expansion of early childhood education -has played a major role in this improvement.

    “Smaller class sizes in the early years and additional resources targeted to students needing extra help have also played a role.

    “But most importantly, classroom teachers have placed a high priority on literacy and numeracy across all areas of the curriculum. This effort has undoubtedly contributed to a rise in literacy and numeracy in WA schools.

    “Teachers are to be congratulated and should feel proud of their important contribution to these critical areas of learning.

    “At the end of the day, most children are performing above standard and those who aren’t will be picked up in this process and will receive extra help.”

    Mr Barnett said more than 51,000 students - more than 25,000 Year Threes and almost 26,000 Year Fives - sat the tests in August.

    He said all WA Government and Catholic schools and 93 independent schools participated.

    This was the first year the results of the reading component were being reported against the nationally agreed position of the benchmark. As in previous years, the other three components, writing, spelling and numeracy, were being released against the State-determined position of benchmarks.

    Mr Barnett said 2000 was the first year parents would be able to track the performance of their children over time, with the Year Three students tested in literacy in 1998 sitting the Year Five tests this year.

    He said principals and teachers would receive detailed information on school and class results this week and parents would receive information about their child’s individual achievements with end-of-year reports next month.

    WA was the only State which reported to parents on the benchmark results.

    “The assessments are a major plank of the State Government’s commitment to the National Literacy and Numeracy Plan endorsed by the Commonwealth and all States and Territories in 1998,” Mr Barnett said.

    “Overall in this year’s tests, 88.5 per cent of Year Three students in Government and non-Government schools achieved or exceeded required literacy levels and 82.6 per cent achieved or exceeded expected numeracy levels.

    “Of the state’s Year Five students, about 87.5 per cent met or exceeded required literacy levels and 86.6 per cent met or exceeded expected numeracy levels.”

    Mr Barnett said that in general, results from the assessments for students in both Government and non-Government schools were:
    • Overall outcomes for Year Three students who met or exceeded the benchmark:
      96.7 per cent of students in reading (nationally agreed benchmark);
      86.4 per cent of students in writing (provisional benchmark);
      82.5 per cent of students in spelling (provisional benchmark);
      82.6 per cent of students in numeracy (provisional benchmark).
    • Overall outcomes for Year Five students who met or exceeded the benchmark:
      93.8 per cent of students in reading (nationally agreed benchmark);
      83.9 per cent of students in writing (provisional benchmark);
      84.8 per cent of students in spelling (provisional benchmark);
      86.6 per cent of students in numeracy (provisional benchmark).
    • Outcomes for girls and boys in Year Three who met or exceeded the benchmark:
      92 per cent of girls and 86 per cent of boys in literacy;
      83 per cent of girls and 82 per cent of boys in numeracy.
    • Outcomes for girls and boys in Year Five who met or exceeded the benchmark:
      91 per cent of girls and 84 per cent of boys in literacy;
      87 per cent of girls and 86 per cent of boys in numeracy.
    • Outcomes for Aboriginal students who met or exceeded the benchmark:
      64 per cent for literacy and 53 per cent in numeracy in Year Three;
      57 per cent for literacy and 53 per cent in numeracy in Year Five.
    • Outcomes for students from non-English speaking backgrounds who met or exceeded the benchmark:
      87 per cent for literacy and 80 per cent in numeracy in Year Three;
      86 per cent for literacy and 82 per cent in numeracy in Year Five.

    Mr Barnett said Aboriginal students’ results showed their literacy outcomes continued to improve which was an exciting result.

    “The literacy results are up nine per cent for Year Three students and six per cent for Year Five students on last year’s results,” he said.

    “A considerable amount of focus has been placed on Aboriginal literacy since the tests were instituted three years ago and these results show this effort is paying off.

    “The figures are still considerably lower than those of non-indigenous students but they show there is an improvement which I think needs to be acknowledged and rewarded in schools.”

    Mr Barnett said there were a number of reasons for the figures in the four different testing areas being so different.

    “Experience from similar testing programs in other States and other parts of the world indicates there are usually quite sizeable improvements in results in the first few years of the program,” he said.

    “This might explain in part the big jump in the reading results.

    “This happens because of increased teacher acceptance of the program and increased teacher and student familiarity with the testing format.”

    Mr Barnett said another factor which influenced the State results was that small differences in setting benchmarks could greatly affect results.

    “There are typically a large number of students who score just above or just below the benchmark score, so any slight movement in the nationally agreed benchmark score produces big shifts in the percentages reported as above or below the benchmark,” he said.

    “Some volatility in the benchmark figures should also be anticipated due to the newness and complexity of the national equating process - the process which enables the States’ and Territories’ tests to be compared.

    “This benchmarking work is groundbreaking not only in Australia but internationally and is still being refined.

    “We can expect the figures to stabilise as the technical issues involved are progressively sorted out but this will not happen for several years.”

    Mr Barnett said, however, this did not alter the value of the results to those who got the most value from it - schools and parents.

    “Teachers and families can still look at the individual performances of their children across the testing areas and get a very good picture of how their child is going in those areas,” he said.

    “That is not altered by the technicalities of the national benchmarking process.”

    The Minister said many schools across the State were using their results in a program known as The Data Club, a collaborative project between the Education Department and Edith Cowan University.

    Through this project, schools were provided with assistance in interpreting their results for school improvement and accountability purposes.

    Media contact: Diana Callander - 9222 9699