Year 7 students going backwards at maths

Australian year 7 students have got worse at maths since the introduction of national literacy and numeracy tests five years ago, according to the latest national snapshot.

And 14 Victorian schools breached national protocols when conducting this year's NAPLAN tests, including giving a class excess time, making test materials available to students before the test and granting a disability adjustment that was not entitled, a separate report says.

NAPLAN was designed to assist schools to identify areas of weakness, monitor improvements and enable education systems to target resources where they are most needed.

However the 2012 NAPLAN national report reveals results have flat-lined between 2008 and 2012 in many of the tests, which assess about a million students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 every May.

Nationally there was a decline in achievement in year 7 maths – the first year of secondary school in many states – between 2008 and 2012, including a decline from 2011 to 2012.

The results come a week after Australia was trounced in international tests in year 4 reading, science and maths and year 8 science and maths.

Year 4s were beaten by students from 26 countries in reading in the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study – the first time Australia had participated in the test.

While there were improvements in NAPLAN in years 3 and 5 reading and year 5 maths between 2008 and 2012, many test categories showed no change and year 7 maths got worse.

In Victoria there was a decline of eight points in the mean year 7 numeracy score from 2008 to 2012.
Nationally there was a 1.7 percentage point drop since 2011 in the number of students meeting the national minimum standard in year 3 numeracy and a 1.6 percentage drop in the number of students meeting the national minimum standard in year 7 numeracy.

However Victoria and New South Wales performed above or no different from the national mean score in every test category.

Federal Education Minister Peter Garrett said the results demonstrated the need for a fairer school funding system and the national plan for school improvement to boost standards.

He said Australia needed to focus more on maths in years 3 and 7. He was also particularly concerned about some of the results obtained by Indigenous students.

Only 8.6 per cent of Indigenous students in very remote schools in the Northern Territory reached national minimum standards, compared to 94.1 per cent of of non-Indigenous students in these schools. ''This is an appalling statistic,'' Mr Garrett said.

''Today's report also confirmed that a student's results are still too closely linked to their parent's education.

Almost 98 per cent of students with parents or carers with a Bachelors degree achieved the minimum standards, compared to 84.5 per cent of those with parents who achieved only year 11 standard.''

The 2012 NAPLAN national report also found girls outperformed boys in reading across all years and boys outperformed girls in maths.

Professor Geoff Masters from the Australian Council for Educational Research said this was consistent with international studies. ''Girls generally perform better in language-based assessments and boys often perform better in quantitative assessments,'' he said.

''Whether there is a fundamental explanation for this that neuroscience can provide we don't know.''
Meanwhile, the 2012 NAPLAN test incidents report found there were 79 substantiated cases of cheating, security lapses or other ''mal-administrative practices'' – up from 54 last year. Six were still being investigated.

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority chief executive Robert Randall said breaches occurred at less than one per cent of schools.

This story Year 7 students going backwards at maths first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.