My School website overhaul - Education Matters Magazine
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My School website overhaul: Progress before comparison

My School website overhaul

The new My School website has now been launched, with a renewed focus on how schools are performing in terms of student progress, as opposed to school versus school comparisons.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) publishes the latest data on the My School website each year. The newly refreshed website includes 2019 NAPLAN results for schools, 2019 school profile and population data, and 2018 financial information, including capital expenditure and sources of funding.

Following last year’s review into NAPLAN data reporting on My School, education ministers agreed in December to overhaul the way NAPLAN data is presented on the My School website.

Education ministers approved recommendations from Professor Bill Louden’s NAPLAN National Reporting Review that included reducing the number of NAPLAN displays on the website and placing a stronger focus on student progress rather than on comparisons with statistically similar schools.

The changes were subject to extensive consultation with stakeholders, statistical experts and parent focus groups.

ACARA CEO David de Carvalho said the updated website represented the first substantial overhaul since My School was first introduced. He added that the changes are “in response to a number of concerns that have been raised in the last few years in relation to how the presentation of the data on the website may be contributing to NAPLAN itself being considered more high stakes than it should be.”

The updated My School website was developed with feedback from eight parent focus groups, which were held nationally in October 2019, conducted by EY Sweeney. Consistent concerns for parents were identified as:

  • A low understanding of the measures used;
  • The time involved in interpreting the data;
  • Complex terminology; and
  • Confusion of scale.

What parents said they wanted was simple charts with clear supporting information, traffic light indicators to remain in place, clear text to support data, and a preference for tables over charts.

“These changes are being made to help parents and school authorities focus more on how a school is performing in terms of student progress i.e. improving literacy and numeracy outcomes over the two years since the previous NAPLAN tests, and less on ‘school versus school’ comparisons that only take account of overall levels of achievement,” said Mr de Carvalho.

President of the Australian Council of State School Organisations Ltd (ACSS), Andrew Bidwell, welcomed the new changes to the My School website. “ACSSO applauds ACARA for listening to the feedback from parents to continue enhancements to the My School website. Parents have been asking for a simpler site with focus on student progress instead of direct rankings, and this change promises to deliver. ACSSO welcomes our ongoing partnership with ACARA to provide the best outcomes for Australian parents.”

On the My School website, NAPLAN is now reported as ‘Student Progress’ and ‘Results’.

By clicking on ‘Student Progress’, users are taken to a table that shows the percentage of students achieving above average progress in reading, writing and numeracy. A new page New page shows a time-series chart for student progress achieved by successive cohorts over the last five years

On the ‘Results’ page, NAPLAN numbers, graphs and participation has been combined into one page. The NAPLAN bands page has been removed.

“It is important to remember that NAPLAN only provides a snapshot in time of achievement levels in two of the seven general capabilities of the Australian Curriculum. It does not measure overall school quality,” added Mr de Carvalho.

Another key update to the new website is replacing ‘Schools with similar students’ with ‘Students with similar background’. As ACARA explained, a school’s average NAPLAN results is now benchmarked with students with a similar background. This change aims to minimise unfair comparisons with other individual schools.

‘Similar background’ is calculated using ICSEA data to create a predicted score for each school’s NAPLAN results, based on the results of all students with a similar socio-educational background across Australia, not just the average results of 60 statistically similar schools.

The change in a school’s average score over two years is now compared to the change in the average score of all students who have the same starting score and similar socio-educational background.

For very small schools, due to the change in methodology in comparing achievement in NAPLAN (moving from comparing similar schools to similar students), those that have 10 students or fewer are colour-coded grey to limit the ability for unfair comparisons to be made.

A new page with a time-series chart for Student Progress achieved by successive cohorts over the last five years is another addition to the new My School website.

According to ACARA, the My School website provides information that supports national transparency and accountability of Australia’s schools through the publication of nationally consistent school-level data. It complements other reporting measures aimed at ensuring schools and school systems are accountable to parents and to the broader community.

“The My School website is a good place for parents to start when gathering information about where they will educate their children,” added Beth Blackwood, CEO of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia. “But it is no substitute for a personal visit to a school, where parents have the opportunity to talk with the principal, teachers and students to help determine whether the school is the best choice to meet the unique needs and interests of their child.”

To view the new website, please click here.