This paper explores Rizvi and Lingard’s (2010) idea of the “local
vernacular” of the global education policy trend of using high-stakes
testing to increase accountability and transparency, and by extension
quality, within schools and education systems in Australia. In the first
part of the paper a brief context of the policy trajectory of National
Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is given in
Australia. In the second part, empirical evidence drawn from a survey of
teachers in Western Australia (WA) and South Australia (SA) is used to
explore teacher perceptions of the impacts a high-stakes testing regime
is having on student learning, relationships with parents and pedagogy
in specific sites.
After the 2007 Australian Federal election, one of Labor’s policy
objectives was to deliver an “Education Revolution” designed to improve
both the equity and excellence in the Australian school system1
& Gillard, 2008). This reform agenda aims to “deliver real changes”
through: “raising the quality of teaching in our schools” and “improving
transparency and accountability of schools and school systems” (Rudd
& Gillard, 2008, p. 5). Central to this linking of accountability, the
transparency of schools and school systems and raising teaching quality
was the creation of a regime of testing (NAPLAN) that would generate
data about the attainment of basic literacy and numeracy skills by
students in Australian schools.
... These negative flow-on effects can be categorised into impacts on first, schools, second, teachers, third, teaching and fourth, students. At the school level, while national and state testing programs may sharpen the focus on what policymakers see as essential competencies, they have been found to be associated with reduced student access to and emphasis on curriculum areas that are not included within the testing program, encouraging teachers to teach to the test and narrowing the learning focus (Polesel et al., 2014;Rentner et al., 2006;Thompson, 2013;Thompson & Harbaugh, 2013). Some research has found evidence of reduced time spent on non-tested areas (such as the arts) and there is evidence that these types of effects may be most keenly felt in disadvantaged schools, which may be under most pressure to bring their students 'up to scratch' (Thompson & Harbaugh, 2013). ...
... Some studies have found that national and state testing programs are associated with a reduction in teachers' morale and sense of professional autonomy (Crocco & Costigan, 2007;Wright & Choi, 2005). Thompson (2013) respondents indicated that NAPLAN tests in Australia had generated increased pressure on teaching staff. Ashadi and Rice (2016) documented impacts on teachers' professional opportunities and career pathways in Indonesia, with those teachers perceived to be more competent or better qualified being assigned to classes sitting for the national tests and being offered more extensive professional learning than other teachers in the same schools. ...
... Athanasou (2010), cited in Polesel et al., 2012) reported that wellbeing issues, such as the inability to sleep, were associated with NAPLAN tests among Australian primary students. Other Australian research with teachers finds that they identify NAPLAN as having a negative impact on student wellbeing (Cummings et al., 2015), with reports of increased student anxiety and stress, or even crying (Thompson, 2013;Rice et al., 2015). Howell (2017) research with primary school students in Australia found that NAPLAN tests were construed as high stakes by students and associated with negative emotional responses such as anxiety, even though the policy intention is that such tests are low stakes for students. ...
National testing of students has become an increasingly prevalent policy tool, often implemented to drive improvement through increased accountability and heightened competition between schools. Such testing has been found to generate negative emotional responses among students, including increased stress and anxiety . However, there is little examining whether such responses are associated specifically with national testing regimes or are more general responses to testing situations. This study surveyed 206 students in Australian secondary schools to compare responses to NAPLAN and internal school tests. Students reported higher expectations for their performance in internal school tests than for NAPLAN, higher levels of boredom for NAPLAN and greater levels of confidence for their internal school tests. While most students reported low levels of negative emotional responses to NAPLAN, a small group of students reported strong negative emotional responses to both NAPLAN and internal school tests, suggesting that negative responses to national testing programs may be more dependent on the individual student.
... In Australia, this imperative became clear with the establishment of the National Curriculum (National Curriculum Board, 2008). Higher levels of accountability were also implemented across the Australian states through introducing the National Assessment Program of Literacy and Numeracy, commonly known as NAPLAN tests (see Thompson, 2013). Then in 2015, the significance of education to the future prosperity of the nation was further underlined with all education ministers agreeing that from 1 July 2016 the Australian Government would initiate the Literacy and Numeracy Test for Teacher Education (LANTITE) (Australian Government, 2017). ...
... Both Au (2007) and Wiliam (2010) caution that under such pressure the curriculum is increasingly presented as discrete and disconnected. A narrowing of the curriculum, whereby less importance and time is provided to those subjects that fall outside of the testing regime has also been evidenced (Au, 2007;Rice et al., 2015;Roberts et al., 2019;Thompson, 2013). A greater emphasis being placed on teacher-centred pedagogies is also noted in the literature. ...
... Undoubtedly, NAPLAN testing has caused a raft of negative consequences for Australian teachers and students (Mayes & Howell, 2018;Wynne, 2016). This is evidenced in the predominantly negative feedback this single measure of academic attainment generates (Thompson, 2013;Wyn, 2014;Wynne, 2016). It has certainly failed (Schleicher, 2019) in "creating and sustaining a world-class, and even a world-best, schooling system" (National Curriculum Board, 2008, p2). ...
Teachers have come under increased pressure to improve educational outcomes as Australia has sought to meet the challenges of competing on an international level. This intensified pressure has been accompanied by improved levels of funding, a National Curriculum for all Australian states, and territories, along with assessments to measure these key outcomes. However, this increased level of scrutiny has affected the pedagogical choices of teachers. Traditional modes of instruction have been reinforced, with teachers moving away from effective constructivist approaches to learning. This article will propose that a reinterpretation of constructivist theories of development is needed to arrest this decline, so that increased accountability measures, like NAPLAN, can be perceived as constructivist opportunities to build both core subject knowledge and broader 21st Century skills, such as resilience.
... Both NAPLAN and the national curriculum are overseen by the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority (hereafter ACARA) . NAPLAN was positioned as essential for the promotion of quality education by ensuring increased accountability and transparency (Thompson, 2013). This is particularly in relation to the need to identify whether 'all students have the literacy and numeracy skills that provide the critical foundation for their learning and for their productive and rewarding participation in the community' (ACARA, 2013). ...
... The intensifying focus on 'national goals, standards and benchmarking' (Spina, 2017, p. 87), and on driving up 'performance' and 'outputs' (Ball, 2015, p. 299), has led to forms of governance through numbers (Grek, 2009;Lawn, 2013;Ozga, 2009), reflective of increased attention to 'policy as numbers' (Lingard, 2011, p. 355). The high-stakes nature of such numbers in schools, also increased as a result of the public form of accountability through MySchool and the subsequent influx of media attention based on high-stakes NAPLAN data (Lingard et al., 2016b;Thompson, 2013). As a form of surveillance technology, MySchool lends itself to performative and comparative pressures (Gorur, 2016) and as such, results in schools desperately seeking to protect their reputational capital, with detrimental effects. ...
... Mental health promotion in schools is important and this paper highlights the need to ensure that all pathology is adequately addressed at the student level and not undermined by the fact that test anxiety could be considered a norm in the presence of testing and exams at school. From a socio-ecological perspective, there have been concerns raised from the literature that an increase in so called "high stakes" standardised testing could be causing the increased prevalence of test anxiety (McDonald, 2001;Locker & Cropley, 2004;Thompson, 2013). Thompson (2013) suggests that the TUR MAC DOM RUS THA BGR HKG QCH COL SVK LTU POL CZE SGP LVA PER TUN NZL CRI MEX AUS BRA SVN QAT ARE GBR MNE USA URY EST FRA JPN CHL IRL BEL TAP SWE HUN HRV FIN GRC PRT LUX DNK NLD KOR ISL NOR DEU CHE Journal of Child and Family Studies motivation behind publishing standardised testing data publicly, that is, to make teachers accountable for their quality of teaching, has created student and teacher stress and anxiety, and a decrease in student motivation. ...
... From a socio-ecological perspective, there have been concerns raised from the literature that an increase in so called "high stakes" standardised testing could be causing the increased prevalence of test anxiety (McDonald, 2001;Locker & Cropley, 2004;Thompson, 2013). Thompson (2013) suggests that the TUR MAC DOM RUS THA BGR HKG QCH COL SVK LTU POL CZE SGP LVA PER TUN NZL CRI MEX AUS BRA SVN QAT ARE GBR MNE USA URY EST FRA JPN CHL IRL BEL TAP SWE HUN HRV FIN GRC PRT LUX DNK NLD KOR ISL NOR DEU CHE Journal of Child and Family Studies motivation behind publishing standardised testing data publicly, that is, to make teachers accountable for their quality of teaching, has created student and teacher stress and anxiety, and a decrease in student motivation. ...
Between the years of 2003–2015, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has identified a global trend signalling a decline in a sense of school belonging for secondary school students. Research has identified several factors that are positively related to school belonging, such as teacher support and academic motivation. However, little empirical research has been conducted to evaluate the relevant school belonging variables holistically and to assess their socio-ecological levels (e.g., student, microsystem, mesosystem) relative to the student. The purpose of this study is to assess the significant predictive variables within each socio-ecological level regarding school belonging. For this purpose, this study used data collected by PISA in 2015, focusing on data from 309,785 15-year-old students attending 12,668 schools in 52 countries around the world. Hierarchical multiple regression analysis was conducted to a) examine the empirical support for a layered structure of sense of school belonging, b) explore the contributions of variables in each layer of the socio-ecosystem to explain the variability in sense of school belonging and c) examine potential variations in this ability across schools and countries. The models provided support for the existence of such layers but also for some underlying relationships across the variables in the layers of the socio-ecosystem. The study then concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings for school leaders, teachers and parents with respect to how school belonging approaches and strategies can be absorbed into existing practices and operations at school.
... Tests are administered on paper and online via the schools networked computers, usually outside of their regular classroom. At the time of the test, the child may be tired or well-rested, confident or apprehensive, anxious or calm, agitated or bored (see Thompson, 2013). Their performance will be affected by their complex unique selves shaped by their subjective life experiences. ...
Educational systems generate huge quantities of digital data. Digital educational data is captured and used at all points -- from classrooms and schools, to the level of educational departments. As growing trends in ‘data-driven instruction’ suggest, all these data have great potential to support student, teacher and leadership practices, help guide work and learning decisions, and inform policy development. Moreover, an increasing focus is being placed on the development of artificial intelligence to automate and improve how data are used. Yet, stakeholder data practices remain invisible and little understood, which complicates how artificial intelligence can be embedded in this context. In this paper, we introduce an educational data journeys framework to frame dynamics of data power, data work, identities and literacies. This approach is employed to explore educational policy reveal data flows and frictions in school improvement and what this may imply for the development of artificial intelligence in education.
This paper draws upon Foucault’s problematisation of governmentality
analysis to explore teacher interviews from Australian secondary schools,
where student voice was ‘enacted’ within a teacher assessment reform
strategy. By bringing teacher voices into relation with theory, it illustrates
how the current ‘sociality of performativity’ is situating student voicebased
assessment initiatives as power apparatuses of teacher surveillance
that shape teacher-student relationships. The analysis portrays teachers’
responses to such ‘techniques of power’, employing forms of auditable
commodification, physical proximity, and reflective practice as a means of
managing student voice ‘risk’. In so doing, the teachers relegated teacher-
student relationships to the margins, struggling to profess an ethic of
care; paradoxically disadvantaging students through voice initiatives
intended to advance them. Demonstrating how affective fundamentals
are eclipsed by performative-invested practices, the analysis highlights
the discursive policy contestations of rapport and performance that
should be taken into consideration in future implementations of student
voice-based assessment initiatives.
The notion of slow scholarship is gathering momentum as educators look to counter the influences of increasing surveillance and control, not only in tertiary institutions, but also across the education sector. These processes impact what may be accomplished by academics in their teaching roles. This chapter explores how slow, care-full, and deep pedagogies might work towards creating caring pedagogical communities for academics and for preservice teachers. The chapter engages in reflection upon practising slow pedagogy, as well as care-full and deep learning. In doing so, this chapter intersects ideas of slow scholarship with ideas of feminist ethics of care, shifting to a relational ontology, resulting in deep and lasting shifts in professional identities in the light of tensions, contradictions, and pressures in the academy.
This study adds to our understanding of how elementary school teachers in culturally and linguistically diverse contexts think about the implementation and impact of Response-to-Intervention practices.
Purpose of Study
The purpose of this study is to understand elementary school teachers’ beliefs about the challenges associated with RTI implementation with high need, high risk student populations.
This was a semi-structured interview study with eight elementary school teachers.
Interview data indicate that while teachers noted the potential of RTI systems and processes, most expressed dissatisfaction with implementation variability, inadequate training, slow matriculation through the tiers, and widely diverse student learning needs. Teachers also noted challenges associated with having to differentiate instruction and management with widely diverse learners while at the same time being pressured to meet accountability targets.
We conclude that although RTI has become more widely understood and recognized, there remain serious implementation challenges and confusion in contexts that serve culturally and linguistically diverse students. We recommend improved training at the university and preservice level to prepare teachers for work in tiered problem-solving frameworks and to help teachers better understand the academic, social, and affective needs of our increasingly diverse student population.
With the transition toward densely populated and urbanized market-based cultures over the past 200 years, young people’s development has been conditioned by the ascendancy of highly competitive skills-based labor markets that demand new forms of embodied capital (e.g., education) for young people to succeed. Life-history analysis reveals parental shifts toward greater investment in fewer children so parents can invest more in their children’s embodied capital for them to compete successfully. Concomitantly, the evolution of market-based capitalism has been associated with the rise of extrinsic values such as individualism, materialism and status-seeking, which have intensified over the last 40–50 years in consumer economies. The dominance of extrinsic values is consequential: when young people show disproportionate extrinsic relative to intrinsic values there is increased risk for mental health problems and poorer well-being. This paper hypothesizes that, concomitant with the macro-cultural promotion of extrinsic values, young people in advanced capitalism (AC) are obliged to develop an identity that is market-driven and embedded in self-narratives of success, status, and enhanced self-image. The prominence of extrinsic values in AC are synergistic with neuro-maturational and stage-salient developments of adolescence and embodied in prominent market-driven criterion such as physical attractiveness, displays of wealth and material success, and high (educational and extra-curricular) achievements. Cultural transmission of market-driven criterion is facilitated by evolutionary tendencies in young people to learn from older, successful and prestigious individuals ( prestige bias ) and to copy their peers. The paper concludes with an integrated socio-ecological evolutionary account of market-driven identities in young people, while highlighting methodological challenges that arise when attempting to bridge macro-cultural and individual development.
The Welsh education system is engaging in a wide-ranging series of reforms and, as part of these reforms, is moving towards an accountability system that aims to work collaboratively with teachers and school leaders in a self-improving system. The aspiration is to move away from accountability structures that are built around high-stakes performative measures. Reform in this area implies change at procedural and cultural levels, and this article presents a research project that explores teacher, school leader and challenge adviser perspectives on accountability, through the lens of narrative inquiry, to identify ways in which accountability is currently constructed and understood. Findings indicate that teachers develop narratives that are focused upon anxiety over impact, whilst leaders focus on critiquing modes of measurement, and that accountability, therefore, is problematised in differing ways by different cohorts of professionals. Furthermore, the leaders’ narratives explore an unresolved tension between the desire for an accountability system which is nuanced and detailed, and the desire for an accountability system which is also clear and unambiguous. It is argued that successful reform will have to engage explicitly with these different ways of understanding accountability if it is to be successfully co-constructed with the profession in the current context.
This paper reports preliminary survey findings of Western Australian and South Australian teacher perceptions of the impact of NAPLAN on curriculum and pedagogy in their classroom and school. The paper examines how teachers perceive the effects of NAPLAN on curriculum and pedagogy and whether these perceptions mediated by the teacher’s gender, the socioeconomics of the school, the State and the school system in which the teacher works. Teachers report that they are either choosing or being instructed to teach to the test, that this results in less time being spent on other curriculum areas and that these effects contribute in a negative way to the class environment and the engagement of students. This largely agrees with a body of international research that suggests that high-stakes literacy and numeracy tests often results in unintended consequences such as a narrow curriculum focus, a return to teacher-centred instruction and a decrease in motivation. Analysis suggests there is a relationship between participant responses to the effect of NAPLAN on curriculum based on the characteristics of which State the teacher taught in, the socioeconomic status of the school and the school system in which they were employed (State, Catholic, and Independent).
It is established that the socio-economic status (SES) of individual students is strongly associated with academic achievement but less is known about this relationship when both student and school socio-economic status are considered. To examine these associations at a finer grain, with the intent of informing educational funding policy, we subjected Australia’s 2003 PISA data set to secondary analysis to better understand the reading and mathematics achievement of students with varying SES, across a range of school SES groupings. Our descriptive analyses show that increases in school SES are consistently associated with increases in students’ academic performance, and that this relationship holds regardless of individual students’ SES. In Australia, the socio-economic profile of the school matters substantially in terms of academic achievement. We discuss the implications of these findings in the context of the current discussion around federal school funding policies, with particular attention given to the association of school composition with student achievement.
Launched in January 2010, the MySchool.edu.au website, which ranks and compares schools on the basis of standardised literacy and numeracy tests, has been the subject of intense media coverage. This article examines 34 editorials focused on MySchool, published from October 2009 to August 2010, and identifies three key narratives in operation, those of distrust, choice and performance. It argues that these narratives work together to reinforce and promote neoliberal educational discourses at the heart of what Michael Apple has termed the ‘conservative modernisation’ of education and other social services. Together, the dominant narratives position MySchool and the ensuing newspaper-generated and published league tables as the solution to problems of poor performance, ‘bad’ schools and ‘bad’ teachers in the face of times characterised by self-interested teachers and governments keen to shirk their responsibility in the education arena.
This article reports findings from interviews with 59 teachers and 20 parents in two large states. Both have standards, attendant benchmarks, and standardized tests to assess students on the standards. Interview protocols from teachers and parents rendered data informing us about (a) teacher and parent knowledge of state standards and testing; (b) teacher test administration and student preparation practices; (c) effects of tests on teachers, parents, and students; (d) how teachers make instructional decisions based on these tests; and (e) the value of such tests. Teachers and parents were unanimous about (a) the intense stress on all involved, (b) the undermining of meaningful instruction and learning, and (c) the high stakes involved. Differences existed between teachers and parents in the two states. Implications address the need for stakeholders in children’s education to make known the deleterious effects of state testing to those in charge of state-mandated testing.
This paper draws upon and critiques the Australian federal government's website My School as an archetypal example of the current tendency to abstract and quantify educational practice. Arguing in favour of a moral philosophical account of educational practice, the paper reveals how the My School website reduces complex educational practices to simple, supposedly objective, measures of student attainment, reflecting the broader ‘audit’ society/culture within which it is located. By revealing just how extensively the My School website reduces educational practices to numbers, the paper argues that we are in danger of losing sight of the ‘internal’ goods of Education which cannot be readily and simply codified, and that the teacher learning encouraged by the site marginalises more active and collective approaches. While having the potential to serve some beneficial diagnostic purposes, the My School website reinforces a view of teachers as passive consumers of information generated beyond their everyday practice.
Although it is important to evaluate the intended outcomes of high-stakes testing, it is also important to evaluate the unintended outcomes, which might be as important or more important than the intended outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to examine some of the unintended outcomes of high-stakes testing, including those related to: (a) using tests as a means to hold educators accountable, (b) the effects on instruction, (c) the effects on student and teacher motivation, and (d) the effects on students who are at-risk of school failure. In examining the evidence, I conclude that while some unintended outcomes of high-stakes testing have been positive, many of the unintended outcomes have been negative. Hopefully, through a greater awareness of the unintended outcomes, school psychologists can work to minimize the negative effects of testing on students and educators.
While numbers, data and statistics have been part of the bureaucracy since the emergence of the nation state, the paper argues that the governance turn has seen the enhancement of the significance of numbers in policy. The policy as numbers phenomenon is exemplified through two Australian cases in education policy, linked to the national schooling reform agenda. The first case deals with the category of students called Language Backgrounds Other than English (LBOTE) in Australian schooling policy – students with LBOTE. The second deals with the ‘closing the gap’ approach to Indigenous schooling. The LBOTE case demonstrates an attempt at recognition, but one that fails to create a category useful for policy-makers and teachers in relation to the language needs of Australian students. The Indigenous case of policy misrecognition confirms Gillborn’s analysis of gap talk and its effects; a focus on closing the gap, as with the new politics of recognition, elides structural inequalities and the historical effects of colonisation. With this case, there is a misrecognition that denies Indigenous knowledges, epistemologies and cultural rights. The contribution of the paper to policy sociology is twofold: first in showing how ostensive politics of recognition can work as misrecognition with the potential to deny redistribution and secondly that we need to be aware of the socially constructed nature of categories that underpin contemporary policy as numbers and evidence-based policy.
Using tests to compare nations, states, school districts, schools, teachers, and students has increasingly become a basis for educational reform around the globe. Although tests can be informative, high-stakes testing (HST) is an approach to reform that applies rewards and sanctions contingent on test outcomes. Results of HST reforms indicate a plethora of unintended negative consequences, leading some to suggest that HST corrupts educational practices in schools. Although there are many accounts of these negative results, SDT supplies the only systematic theory of motivation that explains these effects. In what follows we describe the motivational principles underlying the undermining effects of HST on teachers and learners alike.