ACARA news, October 2013

ACARA CEO Robert Randall interviewed on 2UE radio

30 October 2013

Following articles in media about the positive features of the draft Australian Curriculum Work Studies Years 9–10, ACARA CEO Rob Randall was interviewed on 2UE breakfast radio.

Mr Randall outlined the opportunities provided to students by this elective subject, including knowing and building on personal strengths. He explained that the curriculum aims to help young people build a bridge from the things they know into new and different settings.

The draft curriculum is currently under consultation.

ACARA welcomes your feedback via the Australian Curriculum consultation website and via Twitter @ACARAeduau #WorkStudies.

ACARA CEO’s response to Conservative values deserve championing

29 October 2013

On 26 October 2013 The Australian published an article Conservative values deserve championing by Kevin Donnely. The author attempts to criticise Australian education in general and Australian Curriculum in particular.

See ACARA’s response to the article:

Kevin Donnelly unfortunately misrepresents what the Australian Curriculum sets out for young people to learn.

He says that ‘every subject has to be taught through environmental, indigenous and Asian perspectives' but that is not true. They are identified as issues that should be addressed but only where relevant and as part of the teaching of the traditional disciplines of knowledge.

He says, 'The English curriculum adopts a definition of literature where classic works jostle for attention alongside SMS messages'. The English curriculum says literature involves 'past and present texts across a range of cultural contexts that are valued for their form and style and are recognised as having enduring or artistic value'. It does not suggest that SMS texts or similar meet this definition.

Donnelly also confuses curriculum with teaching methods. The Australian Curriculum sets out what young people should learn. It does not specify how students should be taught. In early years English, for example, the curriculum says that students should be taught phonics as well as spelling, grammar, punctuation, vocabulary and comprehension strategies. The role that direct instruction plays is a matter for teachers, schools and school authorities.

It is in everyone's interests to improve the national curriculum. ACARA continues to seek and welcome challenge and feedback. It had that as the curriculum was being developed. Thousands of teachers, academics and members of the community actively and productively participated in the development process and none of it became the Australian Curriculum until the federal, state and territory education ministers endorsed the final products.

There is no doubt that Donnelly is committed to improving Australian education. It is unfortunate that his selective representation of what has been developed and how it has occurred devalues the substantial contributions of others.

Robert Randall
Chief Executive Officer, ACARA

Also see the full text of Mr Randall's letter to the editor, published in edited form in The Australian, 29 October 2013.

NAP – Civics and Citizenship: Successful start to the online delivery

23 October 2013

This year the National Assessment Program – Civics and Citizenship (NAP–CC) is being delivered online. Since the start of the assessment period on 9 October 2013, 4600 students from 265 schools across all states and territories have completed their test online.

Technology has streamlined every step of the process from planning to delivery. Lessons learnt will pave the way for NAPLAN to be delivered online.

Moving NAPLAN online brings many new prospects for teachers and students that are often limited or not possible with paper-based tests.

'One of the main benefits with NAPLAN moving online is students will be able to sit individually tailored tests,' said Mr Randall, ACARA CEO.

'With tailored testing, NAPLAN tests will better cater for higher-performing students by providing them with more challenging test questions, and at the same time, provide a more precise assessment of underperforming students by tailoring the test questions to their ability.

'Tailored testing will keep all students engaged regardless of their capabilities, reduce test anxiety and allow us to capture information about a student’s potential.' he added.

Conducting tests online will result in other benefits, such as reducing the time it takes to have NAPLAN results to schools and parents. ACARA is currently considering other improvements that online delivery to NAPLAN could provide, such as increased flexibility in the timetable for taking the tests, and accessibility for students with a disability.

In the lead-up to the NAP–CC assessment period, IT coordinators in participating schools have prepared using our online Technical Readiness Test (TRT) and teachers have worked to ensure students have been ready for the day.

ACARA staff are visiting schools across the country, observing the online tests in action. Student reactions have been very positive. Particular features of the NAP–CC online assessment have also met with student approval, including the 'flag item' button which allows students to flag questions they are unsure about and return to those questions at a later time and the timer on screen which easily shows students how much time they have left to finish the test. To date, technical difficulties have been minor and have been resolved either by the chief information officers in states and territories, test administrators and IT coordinators in schools, or a helpdesk offering trouble-shooting support and advice. As a back-up offline solution USB sticks are available on demand.

ACARA expects almost 13 000 students from 682 schools to complete the online assessment by 13 November 2013.

Read more about the NAP Sample Assessment program in general and NAP–CC in particular. Follow the updates about NAP-CC on Twitter @ACARAeduau.

Working with systems, schools and teachers to implement the Australian Curriculum

15 October 2013

ACARA is working with states and territories as they implement the Australian Curriculum in their systems and schools. This includes identifying and applying actions to support primary principals and teachers.

ACARA understands the concerns of primary school teachers about the introduction of a new curriculum. We are listening to those concerns. We have employed a primary school principal with 43-year experience to join our team. Laraine Lucas is helping us to engage with our partners and stakeholders, and work towards solutions. We are working closely with the Australian Primary Principals’ Association. Some of the activities we have initiated include analysing the issues and identifying state-based initiatives to support primary schools. Good examples of these state-based initiatives include the Queensland Studies Authority's (QSA) Purposeful Integration Project, and the South Australia Department of Education and Child Development's (DECD) Australian Curriculum Leaders’ Learning Resource supporting the implementation of the Australian Curriculum in primary schools. Our most recent ACARA Update outlines some of this work of states and territories.

We want to support networking and communication opportunities, and encourage sharing of information among primary schools and teachers. We are interested in how systems, schools and teachers are using the Australian Curriculum. Email us at [email protected] or talk to us via Twitter @ACARAeduau or our Facebook page ACARAeduau. We would love you to join the conversation and help your fellow teachers.

ACARA’s response to “Bad teaching kills reading skills" (Jennifer Buckingham, The Australian, 30/9)

04 October 2013

ACARA agrees with Jennifer Buckingham (Centre for Independent Studies) about the importance of teaching early reading skills in English. That’s why in the Australian Curriculum: English there is a strong emphasis on early reading skills.

The Australian Curriculum: English makes clear what all young Australians should learn in this discipline. It provides the foundation for high quality teaching to meet the needs of all Australian students. Curriculum content includes phonics as well as spelling, grammar, punctuation, vocabulary and comprehension strategies. Students study literature at every year level.

The National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (2005) report was a key reference for the development of the Australian Curriculum.

We encourage everyone to read the Australian Curriculum for English and to provide feedback on what is set for all young Australians to learn. We also welcome more discussion about how best to teach this vitally important knowledge, understanding and skill to students across the country.

Contact us via email to [email protected] or via Twitter @ACARAeduau.

Guiding principles for national online assessment published

04 October 2013

Education ministers have agreed to guiding principles for national online assessment, now published on this site and on the SCSEEC website. The principles provide strategic direction to ACARA for online delivery of NAPLAN, which is provisionally targeted to commence in 2016, pending careful examination of transition issues. Read more on the Assessment page of this site.