Fighting for Equity in Education

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Media Release: ACARA Disqualifies Itself from Assessing the Impact of NAPLAN

Tuesday May 15, 2012

Save Our Schools today called on the national ministers’ education council to re-commission an investigation of the impact of NAPLAN. Trevor Cobbold, national convenor of SOS, said that the integrity of the investigation had been prejudiced by statements by officials of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) which was charged to do the report.

“Last month, the national education ministers’ council discussed concerns about excessive test preparation and the narrowing of the curriculum as a result of the publication of NAPLAN data on My School. It commissioned an assessment of these matters by ACARA.

“ACARA officials have prejudiced this investigation by statements dismissing claims that schools are drilling students for the tests as “nonsense” and as “ambit claims”. They have made up their minds about its conclusions before the assessment is carried out. Clearly, ACARA is incapable of doing a balanced assessment. It should be discharged from doing the assessment and replaced by an independent public inquiry.”

Mr. Cobbold pointed to statements by the ACARA chairman, Barry McGaw reported in the Sydney Morning Herald today and the Age a week ago (7 May) that claims by educators and others that NAPLAN is creating ‘test-driven schooling’ are “nonsense”.

Mr. Cobbold also pointed to prejudicial comments by the General Manager of ACARA, Peter Adams, in today’s Age that schools are “unlikely” to be “excessively drilling students” and that claims to this effect are “ambit claims”.

“This contrasts with his statement reported earlier this year in the Adelaide Advertiser (24 January) that ACARA was “concerned about teaching to the test” which “we’re not happy with”.

“This raises the question of whether ACARA has been instructed to toe the line by the Federal Education Minister and whether the Minister will also be instructing ACARA on its findings about the impact of NAPLAN and My School.

“ACARA has clearly disqualified itself as a neutral player to assess the impact of NAPLAN. It should be stripped of responsibility for the investigation immediately. The national education ministers’ council should step in and commission an independent report.

“There should be an independent public inquiry into the impact of NAPLAN in the light of the widespread claims about excessive test practice in schools this year and the sidelining of other key areas of the curriculum.”

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