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  • One in three indigenous kids fail test
  • By Justine Ferrari
  • The Australian
  • 23/12/2008 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: The Rooster ( 264 articles in 2008 )
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THE rate of illiteracy among Aboriginal children has been underestimated, with the first uniform national literacy tests showing the proportion of indigenous eight-year-olds unable to read is significantly higher than previously thought.

A detailed report of the National Assessment Program in Literacy and Numeracy, released by education ministers, shows about one in three indigenous students in Year 3 failed to meet a minimum standard in reading.

But the 2007 report says one infive indigenous students in Year 3 failed to meet the reading benchmark.

For the first time, students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in every state and territory sat the same literacy and numeracy tests in May.

Previously, each state and territory held its own tests in Years 3, 5 and 7, with the tests moderated to enable comparisons nationally.

The first NAPLAN results suggest differences between the tests held in the states and territories have masked the extent of illiteracy among indigenous children.

Among indigenous Year 3 students, the Northern Territory reported 40 per cent met national benchmarks in reading last year, but this fell to 30 per cent thisyear.

Similarly in Queensland, 87per cent met the reading benchmark last year, falling to 66 per cent this year, while 81 per cent of West Australian students met the minimum standard last year, but only 57 per cent did so this year.

The trend continued in the Territory and Western Australia among Year 5 indigenous students, with only 26 per cent meeting reading benchmarks in the Territory compared with 40per cent last year, and 52 per cent meeting the minimum standard in Western Australia compared with 72 per cent last year.

The results in other states and the ACT were fairly consistent between the two tests, with some states even showing improvements this year among Year 7 indigenous students, particularly Western Australia, which reported 64 per cent meeting the reading benchmark this year compared with 45 per cent lastyear.

The proportion of indigenous students meeting the numeracy benchmarks tended to improve across Years 3, 5 and 7.

The NAPLAN tests are viewed as a more rigorous indicator of students' skills, enabling a better comparison across the nation than the tests conducted in previous years.

Acting federal Education Minister Brendan O'Connor said the tests gave parents and governments an unprecedented level of information and would enable better targeting of resources to schools and students in specific areas or years.

"It remains of great concern that the data shows indigenous student achievement is significantly lower than for non-indigenous students in all areas tested and all jurisdictions," Mr O'Connor said.

He said the test results enabled the federal Government, for the first time, to look at state and territory results to get a better understanding of which areas needed a helping hand in meeting their challenges.

West Australian Education Minister Elizabeth Constable announced a support package for state teachers and principals worth $500,000 to assist students in becoming more familiar with the NAPLAN tests. Dr Constable said the package would supplement the $4.67 million announced last Wednesday to improve literacy and numeracy skills in the state.

The program includes $1.5million for primary schools to implement a whole-school approach to literacy; $1.2 million until 2010 for a pilot program using paraprofessionals to help students; and $750,000 to develop a resource kit for teachers, concentrating on grammar, punctuation and spelling.

A spokesman for Dr Constable said the funding was the first part of the strategy.

Queensland Education Minister Rod Welford said the Bligh Government was well aware of the challenges in closing the gap for indigenous students.

"Queensland's indigenous students generally performed better than those in other states with a similar proportion of indigenous students, such as the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia," Mr Welford said.

He said programs launched in October targeting students at the start of school and campaigning on school attendance would help improve the achievements of indigenous students.


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