A third of NSW students do not meet the new standards

However, results in grammar and punctuation were down, with between 30 and 40 per cent of NSW students performing in the bottom two categories.

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David de Carvalho, executive director of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, said the results showed strong performance by Australian students but highlighted clear areas for improvement.

“The results continue to highlight educational disparities between students from non-urban areas, Indigenous Australians and students from low socio-educational backgrounds,” he said.

In NSW, reading, literacy and numeracy results showed that 60 per cent of Indigenous students were classified as developing or in need of additional support. That number rises to about 70 percent among Indigenous students in the 7th and 9th grades.

Jordana Hunter, director of the Grattan Institute’s education program, said the new benchmarks painted a clearer picture of the standards and were the “wake-up call” Australia needed, especially for Indigenous students, who scored almost two-thirds below their proficiency level.

“Governments need to do much more to encourage teachers to adopt explicit approaches to teaching key aspects of literacy, particularly in primary school, because we know that over time it becomes increasingly difficult to catch up “, she said.

NSW has made phonics instruction compulsory in the primary school years and there is now a compulsory phonics test for first graders. “But there’s clearly more work to be done,” Hunter said. “Around 27,000 third graders (about a third) fell short of expectations when it came to reading. We need to develop a clearer picture of what is holding these students back and take targeted interventions to reach them.”

Among NSW pupils in outlying schools, two-thirds of pupils scored in the bottom two grades in literacy and numeracy, and in schools outside the region almost half of pupils did in these two grades.

Glenn Fahey, director of education at the Center for Independent Studies, said previously low national minimum standards had obscured “a long line of underperforming students”.

“In the past, this may have been partially obscured because past NAPLAN performance levels largely reflected performance compared to the low benchmark of the national minimum standard,” he said.

What the new bands mean

Exceeding: The student’s score exceeds expectations at the time of the exam.

Strong: The student’s result meets the high but reasonable expectations at the time of the exam.

Development: The student’s result shows that he/she meets expectations at the time of the test.

Needs additional support: The student’s result shows that they are not achieving the learning outcomes expected at the time of the exam. You will likely need additional support to progress satisfactorily.

Source: ACARA

“The challenge for education systems now is to systematically define and provide the additional support that many students need, according to the new NAPLAN reporting. Consistent, quality instruction is the solution to education’s problems, but there can be disagreements within and between schools in delivering effective instruction.”

Federal Education Secretary Jason Clare said the next step is to help students who need more support. “The evidence shows that when you’re falling behind in school, it’s really hard to catch up. Only one in five students who fall short of the minimum standard in reading and arithmetic in third grade is above in ninth grade,” he said.

New South Wales Education Secretary Prue Car said the data provided a better insight into which students need more support, noting that the Government had taken action to “counter the extreme pressure on schools” by they offered permanent positions to temporary teachers and hired more support staff.

Jennifer Buckingham, strategy director at literacy company MultiLit, said the changes in reporting mean the results are now more aligned with the International Student Assessment (PISA) program, where about two-thirds of students meet the measure of achievement.

“It’s good to have a higher benchmark standard, but it’s disappointing that we can’t find a way to compare results from previous years,” she said.

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This year’s NAPLAN tests were taken in March instead of May, allowing teachers to access the data earlier as part of the test revision. A record 4.4 million online tests were submitted by more than 1.3 million students at 9,390 campuses and schools across Australia.

The average NAPLAN scores for students with the highest socio-educational background were significantly higher than those for the lowest in all grades and subject areas.

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Justin Scaccy

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