More testing is not best for students by Cayt Mirra

Image by Wadi Lissa on Unsplash

The government’s plan to introduce literacy and numeracy testing for Year 12 students is ill-conceived; it targets a legitimate problem but in an ineffective way.

Students who pass their VCE have already demonstrated literacy skills through their requirement to complete English, EAL, English Language or Literature. These subjects all require analysis of complex texts and the ability to write detailed responses to difficult questions. It should not be possible for a student lacking in basic literacy skills to meet these outcomes.

Students completing their VCAL certificate are required to complete specific literacy outcomes, requiring them to read and write for a range of practical purposes. These students have chosen this pathway in order to be able to demonstrate their skills in applied tasks rather than in a traditional educational setting; to punish them for not performing in a traditional exam environment is cruel and counters the purpose of the VCAL program.

The government has argued that students do not take the GAT seriously, with most students not studying for it. But the GAT is not designed to be studied for; it is a test of students’ natural abilities. In fact, one of the types of data that schools receive is students’ growth scores – these tell us if students’ results are higher than the scores predicted by their GAT so that we can see how much we have ‘value added’.

Another argument that has been made for this test is that it will allow students to access additional support. If this were the case, the testing would not happen at the conclusion of their education. Difficulties in literacy and numeracy should be detected in primary school. And they are. Teachers know which of their students need additional support. But with classes of up to 28 students and very little funding for intervention programs, there is only so much we can do. Any money being thrown at this re-vamping of tests would be much better spent helping schools implement rigorous intervention programs with one on one support for students more than a year behind.

All this test does for students with lower literacy or numeracy skills is present an extra hurdle to employment, without putting anything in place to actually boost literacy and numeracy skills. Schools do not need more tests to identify the students who need help. We already know which students need help because we teach them and we see their work every day. What we need is more time, money, resources and freedom within the curriculum in order to implement support programs that will actually raise student outcomes.