My School data: read with caution

School NAPLAN results for 2013 are due to be made publicly available on the government's MySchool website on March 6, 2014. At this time, there is usually interest from the community in the achievements and performance of individual schools and newspapers often report on school rankings based on data from the website.

When reading these reports, parents should remember that:

  • The ACT education system is widely acknowledged as high performing]
  • There is a lot of information available to help understand how individual schools are performing, and what their strengths are. School websites, and the MySchool website, are valuable sources of information about schools
  • Raw data, such as NAPLAN test scores or finance information (as provided on MySchool) while adding to information about schools, is a narrow and incomplete way to assess a school's performance when taken in isolation.
  • Schools are not defined by the results of one test on one day, focusing on a very specific part of the curriculum.
  • There is no substitute for visiting the school, speaking to the principal and teachers, observing students and talking to other parents.

NAPLAN provides teachers with valuable diagnostic information about individual students in vital literacy and numeracy skills. While this is very important, keep in mind that schools teach many things other than the "three Rs". Be careful not to attach too much importance to individual numbers, such as NAPLAN scores, alone. They give good information, but are only a small part of the picture. Individual pieces of data represent a snapshot of a point in time – NAPLAN represents how a group of students went in one test on one day.

Resist the "league table" idea. You can't rank schools from 1 to 10,000 based on a single number. There are too many factors to take into account, and they can't be reflected in a single number or listing. In addition, a league table only shows where students are now, not how far they have come, so a school's good work with disadvantaged students is hidden.

To get the best out of the vast information now available on the internet:

  • keep a sense of proportion about the importance of an individual number;
  • use data to start a discussion with the school; and
  • treat data as only part of the picture about what a school has to offer and what it is achieving.