Call for Public Consultation by ACARA on My School Problems

The public education advocacy group, Save Our Schools, has written to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) calling on it to invite public submissions on the adverse consequences of My School.

SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, said that it is incumbent on ACARA to act immediately to identify adverse consequences of the school reporting website.

“There is already evidence that My School is harming schools and students as well as misleading parents.”

“The national education ministers’ council took a decision 18 months ago to identify the unintended and adverse consequences of My School as soon as it became operational. The chairman of ACARA, Barry McGaw, admits this has not been done. ACARA should initiate an open and public process to identify these consequences.”

“ACARA should apply the principle of transparency to its own processes and openly assess the full consequences of My School.”

Mr. Cobbold said that evidence of the harm done by reporting school results is already accumulating.

“Already, we are seeing a narrowing of the curriculum, increased difficulty for schools with lower results to recruit quality teachers, manipulation of results to make schools look better and stigmatization of schools and students.

“Soon after My School went operational, the Victorian Education Department instructed schools to spend more time on test preparation. This will narrow the curriculum and the learning of students. It will reduce time spent on non-tested subjects such as science, history, languages, arts and music, etc.”

“It will also be at the expense of greater depth of learning in the tested subjects. There is evidence of a narrowing of the maths curriculum in NSW schools under the pressure of national tests.”

“A recent survey of school principals found that My School has made it harder for some schools to recruit new teachers. It also found that many schools and their students have been stigmatized because of low results.”

“There have been reports that teachers and principals helped students with answers during the NAPLAN tests last year. The Association of Independent Schools has warned that the security of NAPLAN tests is inadequate to prevent cheating and corruption.”

“Just recently, it was reported that private schools around Australia are considering introducing pre-entry tests for students which could be used “to weed out and exclude potentially poor performing students” according to the Adelaide Advertiser.”

“It has also been reported that some private schools have encouraged families of lower performing students to take their children elsewhere. There is widespread anecdotal evidence of schools encouraging some students not to turn up on test day last year. These are ways of artificially boosting school results.”

“In addition, many technical inadequacies of the so-called like school comparisons of My School have been exposed, including a systematic bias against government schools. As a result, parents are being misled by these comparisons.”

Mr. Cobbold said that ACARA has to do more than just offer vague assurances about monitoring the consequences of My School.

“It should systematically review the consequences of My School. It should consult through public forums and with teacher and parent organisations. It should invite public submissions on the evidence about the consequences of My School and it should publish a public report on those consequences.”

“Only then will it be possible to identify the full consequences of My School as requested by the national council of education ministers 18 months ago.”

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