Dear Parents and Carers,
The media love to write about schools and the perceived strengths and shortcomings of different schools and different systems. Earlier this week I read of booming enrolments in faith-based independent schools. Last month the imminent demise of single gender boys’ schools was reported. In between there have been many stories that either praise or criticise individual schools. Somehow because everybody has been to school they feel a degree of expertise as to what good schooling looks like.
St Joseph’s strives to provide a holistic education. This has multiple meanings. The first is to help individual students be well-rounded with a range of skills and attributes. The second is for each cohort of students to have individual students excelling in their specialty, (hopefully while maintaining some degree of competence and achievement in the others). The third, and arguably most important, is to provide opportunities for a range of individuals, the gifted, the learning impaired, the wealthy, and the disadvantaged.
Is it more important to achieve excellent academic results, demonstrate outstanding musicianship, display the skill and drive to become a professional sportsman, have and live out faith or simply be a good citizen? Of course, the answer is that they are all important, in different measures to different people. I’m biased but I think we do holistic education pretty well and provide good schooling.
Sometimes people suggest that an emphasis on one element necessarily compromises another. The reality is that academic study, sport, music and other activities develop transferable skills, including self-discipline, resilience and respect for rules and teamwork. Each also boosts self-esteem and promotes physical and mental health.
While we celebrate the achievements of past students, it is worth remembering that we don’t have sport and music programs in the school for the benefit of the few who will go on to become professionals any more than we teach writing expecting that all our pupils will become famous authors. We have these programs because they are good for everybody.
Historically the College has experienced much success in sport and music but not so much in public speaking and debating. I am delighted to report that earlier this week our junior public speaking team of Aemmon O, Lachlan S, Darby G and Hamish V (who had the highest individual score of the day) were winners of the Associated Catholic Colleges public speaking competition earlier this week.
Also, our Year 12 students are finishing their exams at about this time. I’m very grateful for the work of Brad Smith, Jules Holt, Peter Ryan and Lisa Pope in ensuring the exams have run smoothly.
We recently received the 2022 NAPLAN results which provide us with valuable data on our student's academic performance. In conjunction with other test data these affirm success in some areas and identify some areas of challenge. I am grateful to Lisa Pope, our Deputy Principal – Learning, for providing the following analysis and commentary.
The Student Growth report allows our staff to see which of our students are achieving expected growth, and those with lower or higher growth than expected between Year 7 and 9. NAPLAN testing did not occur in 2020, therefore we cannot use NAPLAN to gauge growth in our current year 9’s.
Fortunately NAPLAN is not the only form of testing at St Joseph’s. We use a range of measures (both formative and summative) to monitor student growth. We establish a baseline through our Grade 6 Allwell testing procedures which include an educational skills profile for each of our incoming students. Tests measure General Reasoning, Mathematics, Reading Comprehension, Spelling and Written Expression. They are then repeated in Year 8 and Year 10 to gain further insight into our student's growth over time.
The Grade 6 testing data provides a baseline to profile each of our students. We then identify if we need further and more specific testing for students whose results indicate more extensive intervention in their learning is required. Similarly, we identify students who are above the standard expected and identify ways to engage them at their point of need. We identify trends in class data to target our teaching, especially if we can address specific gaps in their learning. In this case, reteaching and relearning the concept may be the focus.
This year’s NAPLAN data indicated that, when compared to other boys in the state, our Year 7 boys at were only slightly below the state median for reading and writing, but have significantly lower medians for spelling and grammar. Our Numeracy data on the other hand was above the state median for all students.
This trend was replicated in Year 9. However, what was great to see was an increase in the number of our boys in the top 2 bands for both reading and numeracy. Additionally, our Year 8 and 10 students’ Allwell test results show we are making a difference in shifting our boys along the learning continuum.
The percentage of boys who start in the low category (bottom 25% nationally) across all areas of literacy, numeracy and general reasoning is significantly reduced over time. This shift sees an increase in the number of boys that are now in the middle band or above. Those students whose performance is not shifting over time, have further intervention and support strategies implemented. It also enables us to identify students who demonstrate the readiness to begin a VCE or VET subject early, knowing they have a solid foundation to work from. The trends in our data over the past 4 years can be seen in the tables below.
For those students who then go on to complete scored assessments in their VCE program, our median study score has consistently hovered above the state average. Whilst much is to be said about standardised testing, the reality for schools is how well the data is used and analysed. What story does it tell? Are there trends that need to be addressed and where do we need to focus our resources so that we can support the learning needs of our students? Using data to monitor the learning progress of our students, gives us a greater understanding of the effectiveness of our programs, and the impact of our teaching, as well as the opportunity to support and guide our boys to build confidence in learning.