"You measure what you treasure”

Improving transparency and accountability through public access to school data

Principal presentation Darlinghurst Public School


Canberra DFAT meeting UNESCO study tour

by Janine McGruddy

TINZ Chief Executive Officer

Last month, I participated in a study tour of Australia’s ‘My School’ initiative, focused on how a transparency portal used data to ensure accountability in schools.

This event was organized by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Agency (ACARA) and the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP). I was invited as a representative of TINZ, leveraging my background in education. Also from New Zealand was a representative from the Ministry of Education and one from the NZ Parent Association.

Darlinghurst Public School

Introduced to Australia eight years ago, the My School initiative provides educators, parents and the community important information about each Australian school in a readily accessible and shareable format. It also contains data on each school’s student profiles, enrolment figures, attendance rates, performance, and funding levels and sources.

The five-day study tour was enriched by presentations from the Australian authorities and stakeholders of the My School initiative. A stand out was visiting schools to gain an understanding of the operation and limits of My School from a front-end user perspective.

My School, which has information about over 10,000 schools in Australia, features students’ growth in reading, writing, language conventions and numeracy based on the results of the National Assessment Program - learning and numeracy (NAPLAN). It is a nationally administered test for all students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. The results are available for everyone to see. It has students' test performance results, de-identified to protect their privacy.

Controversially, the My School initiative allows statistical comparison of schools’ and students’ performance according to a context-sensitive Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA). Perhaps the most useful part of this data from a parent’s perspective is that it can show individual progress in students, so they can see not just where their child is at but how they are progressing from year to year.

Unlike Australia, the New Zealand educational system does not carry out standardised testing. It is more difficult here to get transparent data from National Standards on the progression of individual learners at primary school level. There are tools that enable progress in a year to be quantified, for example the Progress and Consistency Tool (PaCT), but uptake for these has been slow.

The study tour demonstrated the advantages of moving more quickly in offering transparency information about our students' and schools' performance.

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