NAPLAN: Growing strong

Amid reports NAPLAN results across the board have ‘flatlined’ in the past three years, Sydney Catholic schools have performed well above the state and national average scores in all five areas of NAPLAN assessment in 2016.

More than 95 per cent of students at Sydney Catholic Schools’ 112 primary and 38 secondary schools are at or above the national minimum standard in Reading (97.7%), Writing (96.4%), Spelling (97.6%), Grammar and Punctuation (96.8%), and Numeracy (98.6%).

Sydney Catholic School’s Director of Teaching and Learning, Dr Michael Bezzina, said the positive results reflect the organisation’s commitment to Authentic Learning, which allows students to be challenged, apply new knowledge and skills creatively and connect what they have learned to their own lives.

To focus on the bands attained by our students ignores the more important question of how far they have travelled to get there.

– Dr Michael Bezzina

Despite the praiseworthy results, Dr Bezzina said that SCS’ focus was not on the destination but on the distance travelled. He acknowledged the 18 primary schools and eight secondary schools within the system that achieved learning growth significantly above the state average in all tests.

“Increasingly we are focusing on learning gain as a measure of success – how much the students have grown between NAPLAN tests – as to simply focus on the bands attained by our students ignores the more important question of how far they have travelled to get there,” he said.

“Almost every school has demonstrated above average growth in one or more tests. This is a very clear indicator that the schools are making a difference for all students, not just capitalising on the abilities of the more able.

“We are very keen to promote excellence across the board. Literacy and Numeracy figure prominently in our system strategic plan through a range of support and enrichment programs in our schools. These include the Newman program for gifted students, the Reading Recovery program for early learners with reading difficulties, a wide range of teacher professional development opportunities and an overarching system literacy and numeracy direction that is implemented in every school.”

We try to make their learning goals aspirational.

– Lisa Wahab

Schools who have achieved significant learning gain according to NAPLAN 2016 data share their thoughts on why:

“We’ve had a high focus on [two-hour daily] literacy blocks, so that all classes have a consistent approach to developing language. Our student growth team is made up of our leadership team, special needs teacher, EALD teacher and a gifted education teacher, and we focus on every child getting one year’s learning gain for every year at school.

“To ensure that every child is successful we try to make their learning goals aspirational. We ask them how they make a difference to their life and to other people’s lives so it’s not just about academic growth.”

–  Lisa Wahab, Principal, St Felix’s Catholic Primary Bankstown

“The boys are writing more and they are more au fait with the type of literacy components that will help them improve their writing, reading and comprehension. We’ve also had a big success with our program where boys set achievable targets each semester and focus on strategies to help them achieve those.

“There has been a shift in the culture of the school to focus on learning based on the data and we are so pleased to see that bearing fruit. Authentic learning is about helping the boys to realise their full potential whatever that may be. Everybody at our College has bought into it – teachers, students, parents. When the boys believe they can do better and we can show them how through the strategies we’ve put in place we can really help them fly.”

–  Craig Bissell, Middle School Learning Coordinator, Champagnat Catholic College Pagewood

“Recently there has been quite a bit of professional development around writing. You empower your teachers, then they go back to their school and work within their grade groups.  We analyse student data, identify the children who are moving really quickly, the ones who aren’t and the ones who are in the middle. Year 5 reading, spelling, grammar and punctuation were a huge shift above the state and Catholic schools [average] compared to last year. In reading 19 of 21 students have exceeded the expected growth which is terrific. One of the children went from Band 3 to Band 8 in numeracy in two years. That’s way off the scale.”

–   Judy Gastin, Principal, St Martha’s Catholic Primary Strathfield

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