No doubt we will see a flurry of apoplectic articles in the next few days and quite a lot of ranting on Twitter. Simon Birmingham, Australia’s minister for education and training, has announced that he intends to push ahead with new literacy and numeracy assessments for Year 1 students and he has announced a panel who will move this forward.
I cautiously welcome this, albeit with a heavy heart.
The heavy heart comes from the fact that we shouldn’t need such tests. I tend to agree with Eric Kalenze that such accountability regimes are an act of frustration on the part of politicians. They would really like to be able to leave education to the experts but, unfortunately, education suffers under the tyranny of bad ideas. We are simply incapable of improving things ourselves because we believe black is white. So it points to a lack of professionalism and agency; I regret that we are in such a state.
I am also cautious about what these assessments will look like. Hopefully, the literacy assessment will be modelled on the English phonics check, the introduction of which seems to have correlated with a rise in reading standards more generally.
If I were to modify this model, I might suggest focusing on something other than the number of students meeting a certain pass mark which could potentially prompt teachers to prioritise students who are just under that mark.
I’m a little worried about what the numeracy assessment might look like. There is still a lot of steam behind the constructivist fuzzy maths movement. Year 1 is probably too early to really push that particular agenda but we could easily end up with something a little pointless. Hopefully, the focus will be on maths facts such as number bonds.
I will await the details with interest.