My School, the media and misinformation

Beth Blackwood

11 April 2019

The launch yesterday of 2019 My School, with 2018 NAPLAN and student data and 2017 school financial data, attracted an early example of an almost universal complaint by educators: that publication of NAPLAN data on My School allows for unfair comparisons of schools. 

The Daily Telegraph claimed that the results of two ‘elite’ independent schools in Sydney were ‘sub par’, based on a comparison with the results of ‘similar schools’. A comparison of mean scores will inevitably be misleading, however, if those ‘similar schools’ are academically selective. Had journalists bothered to dig a little deeper and compare results as expressed by student gain, they would have found that, far from offering an education that is ‘sub par’, these independent schools are helping their students achieve well above what might otherwise have been predicted. That’s worth celebrating! 

A recent survey of AHISA members to inform a submission to the Education Council’s NAPLAN Reporting Review showed that Heads are deeply concerned that the determination of statistically similar schools does not support fair comparisons of NAPLAN results on My School. 

Independent schools are often unfairly targeted by segments of the media. While divisive and misleading reporting is never welcome, it is particularly galling when misinformation amounts to a de-valuing of the work of teachers. 

Perhaps ironically, the NAPLAN Reporting Review is running alongside a federal parliamentary inquiry into the status of the teaching profession. Coverage of My School in the mass media shows that these two issues are not unrelated. 

It will be interesting to see if these two inquiries can find a way to reconcile the requirement for schools to be accountable for the quality of their education provision with the patent disregard for quality reporting among some sections of the media.