Best practice focus leads to improved Naplan results

2014 Naplan results have shown significant improvement across the Diocese
2014 Naplan results have shown significant improvement across the Diocese

For the seventh consecutive year, students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 sat the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (Naplan) in May.

13,847 students from the Diocese of Parramatta sat Naplan, which has six measures of assessment for each student: reading, writing, spelling, grammar/punctuation, overall literacy and numeracy.

Results released in September identified many areas of improvement for students in the Diocese of Parramatta especially in Year 3 literacy and numeracy, Year 5 reading and writing and Year 9 numeracy. There were also significantly improved results for Indigenous students.

Director System Learning, Sue Walsh, said Naplan is a valuable tool that tells teachers about their students’ performance on a given day and identifies areas for improvement and future growth.

‘The data allows us to ask ‘what can we learn and what can we do better?’ said Sue. ‘It allows us to track how our intervention strategies are working and where we need to refine our focus.’

Sue said a focus on best practice learning and teaching and the implementation of key strategies, including Focus160 (100 minutes of reading and 60 minutes of numeracy each day for K-6), Reading Recovery and Extending Mathematical Understanding (EMU) have contributed to the improved results.

‘We have been concentrating on the implementation of early learning intervention strategies in literacy and numeracy to decrease the number of students in the bottom two bands,’ she said. ‘Not only did we decrease the number of students in the bottom bands, but  we increased the number of students in the top two bands.’

‘We have used best practice strategies based on research to approach the work of improving literacy and numeracy in our schools,’ said Sue. ‘We know that these improvements have come from a consistent focus on implementing these high yield strategies.’

Principal of St Michael’s Primary, Blacktown, John Laffan, said improved results come down to a clear and consistent framework of learning implemented by the system and developed within the school community.

‘The development of the capacity and skill of our teachers has been an ongoing process supported by system initiatives such as Focus160 and EMU,’ said John. ‘The results are indicative of the collaboration and growth of our teams in their professional learning.’

Principal of Holy Family Primary, Granville East, Sue Guilfoyle, said using student data to inform teaching practice has brought great insight into student learning.

‘A critical component of our direction has been staff analysis of assessment data including running record of analysis, criteria-based writing assessments and Maths assessment interviews,’ said Sue. ‘These insights have allowed staff to pinpoint their students’ learning needs and plan specific, targeted learning experiences.’

At Holy Cross Primary, Glenwood, Principal Marina Hardy pinpointed ongoing feedback from teachers to their students in developing their comprehension of tasks.

‘The students respond extremely well to the feedback and look forward to receiving it, in fact they now even request it from their teachers,’ said Marina. ‘The students are becoming clearer on what they are learning and why they are learning it.’

Year 3 teacher and EMU Leader of Learning and Teaching, Shaun Buckley from Holy Cross Primary said the sustained and focused professional development has improved his practice.

‘As teachers we have been able to look deeper at the data we have on our students and use it to focus in on the learning individual students need. We are better able to engage and challenge students at both ends of the spectrum,’ said Shaun.

Principal of St Agnes Catholic High School, Rooty Hill, Peter Brogan, attributes their improvement to an increased level of engagement from students responding to the targeted learning and teaching approach.

‘This explicit approach allows teachers to understand the learning requirement of every student,’ said Peter. ‘The school community as a whole has embraced literacy and numeracy as the cornerstones of educational development.’

For St Aidan’s Primary, Rooty Hill Principal, Dr Elizabeth Ricketts, improved results come down to ‘persistent, consistent and insistent’ implementation of balanced literacy and numeracy blocks.

‘Every school is on a learning journey and I believe you need to model the behavior to staff and students of never giving up,’ said Liz. ‘We have stuck to the plan, listened to advice, shared best practice and reflected on the work.’


Overall Trends:

  • best result ever in Year 3 numeracy and Year 5 spelling
  •  fewer indigenous students in the bottom two bands in reading and writing across all of Year 3,5,7 and 9 compared to the state
  • first time Indigenous students in the top band for reading in Year 9

Year 3 Reading and Writing:

  • the Diocese continues to have performed above the state. More students at or above the minimum standard than for the state
  • fewer students in the bottom two bands and more in the top two bands than the state

Year 3 Numeracy:

  • numeracy results have improved every year from 2011 onwards in line with the Diocesan Numeracy Strategy. The system mean for Number, Patterns and Algebra is now significantly above the State mean

Year 5 Reading  and Writing:

  • more students at or above the minimum standard than for the state
  • fewer students in the bottom two bands than for the state

Year 7 to 9:

  • strong growth in all indicators with strong improved growth in Numeracy and its domains