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Way back when (actually 20-21 February), I went to the National Symposium on Assessing English as a Second/Additional Language or Dialect in the Australian Context. Jill Wigglesworth and I gave a talk on some of the problems we see with the NAPLAN testing of second language learners of English, in particular Indigenous children living in remote communities where they mostly only hear standard English at school or on the telly. There were plenty of bloggable moments and discussion, but life got in the way of actual blogging.

Now, thanks to Adriano Truscott, I've got the link to the handouts and powerpoints of the presentations. Here they are.

And here [.pdf] also are the recommendations that people concerned with Indigenous education made.

Policy Issues and Recommendations
Issue 1
While the expressed intention of standardised testing is to raise national achievement, it is having unintended consequences for some of the most disadvantaged learners in Australia and is working against these learners in ways that are counterproductive to the original and stated intentions of this testing, viz. documenting and thereby raising national standards. Current national assessments are failing to tap what learners can do/do know (communicatively) and also what they need to know.

We recommend that:
1. The test items used by the NAPLaN be empirically and independently verified in regard to their validity and reliability for specific learner groups.
2. NAPLaN be modified to improve consideration of EAL/D learners’ progression points and pathways and to locate appropriate standards in SAE fairly and accurately

Issue 2
Data from the administration of NAPLaN is reported in gross forms that are insufficiently disaggregated.

We recommend that:
3. NAPLaN data be fully disaggregated and able to be disaggregated according to language background, place of residence, post code and other demographic variables to enable comparative analysis of specific cohorts.
4. NAPLaN data on Indigenous learners be fully disaggregated and able to be disaggregated according to program type, and specifically in regard to bilingual programs.
5. NAPLaN data be accessible in the public domain.

Issue 3
Currently, public debates and educational policy-making are not adequately informed about Indigenous learners’ needs and achievements. Further, both the debates and policies are inflamed by failures to specify clearly what is being discussed and/or advocated. In consequence, appropriate support for multilingual and bi-dialectal Indigenous students’ learning is being seriously undermined.

We recommend that:
6. Those responsible for policy-making and informing the public should be explicit and more transparent in their use of the following terms—
(i) literacy, language and associated terms, for example, English, Creole, dialect, discourse, subject, literature, SAE
(ii) two-way programs
(iii) bilingual education/learning/instruction
(iv) mother tongue instruction/home language.

7. The National Statements of Learning as they apply to all disciplines and especially to Literacy and Numeracy in NAPLaN should include the expected learning behaviours for EAL/D learners at each assessed juncture—Years 3, 5, 7 and 9—so that their particular language and learning development pathwaysand time-frames are made clear to and duly considered by curriculum developers, policy makers and teachers.

Issue 4
Currently, there is insufficient recognition in policy-making of how assessment relates to and affects teaching. Current assessments value standard written English only and fail to distinguish between failure to master spoken English and failure to master writing in English. In consequence, on the one hand, these assessments yield little information to support teaching, and, on the other hand, moves to link NAPLaN assessments to “literacy packages” and “programs” will narrow pedagogy to training students to produce pre-determined responses to NAPLaN assessments.

We recommend that:
8. The principles outlined in this report be applied to national and local assessment and testing, including NAPLaN and the National Curriculum.

Issue 5
Developing the VET sector is currently a policy priority. VET is a potentially appropriate, viable and desired pathway for many Indigenous learners. However, their presence in VET contexts is largely unacknowledged, at least in regard to curriculum and assessment. The implications of their communicative profile are considered even less.

We recommend that:
9. A priority within the current policy initiatives for improving Indigenous outcomes in VET be that bi-dialectal approaches to adult literacy in the VET sector are investigated, supported, further developed and evaluated.


Thanks- but link doesn't work to Adriano's handouts and presentations...

Thanks! I am tracking down where the site has gone to...

The good people at NSW have sent the following info

"The School of Education recently migrated to a new server with a new look. Sadly, this migration affected some of our links. However, I have fixed all the links now and it should be up and running.

To access the symposium itself: http://education.arts.unsw.edu.au/recentevents/nationalsymposiumonenglishassessment/

To access Adriano's particular file:

To access all the presentations that we were given to us:

This symposium can also be accessed via the Education News page:

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