Equity is a pillar of the Janison brand; we believe in the power of data-led insights to help remediate some of the causes of inequity in education, which is why we’ve developed ongoing relationships with schools and educators to help tackle it. One such relationship is with the University of Sydney, who are supporting us in our new DEEP (Data-led Education Equity program) . This program aims to bridge the education equity gap among schools by providing those in low socioeconomic, outer regional, remote, very remote and Indigenous communities of NSW with free-of-charge access to Janison’s industry-leading student assessment tools, Reach and ICAS.
To shed further light on our DEEP initiative, and to expand on Australia’s commitment to improving education for all, we asked some of Janison’s leaders for their thoughts on the Productivity Commission report from the National School Reform Agreement (NSRA), which highlighted inequity in education between metropolitan and rural & regional schools.
Kerry Tremaine, Head of Assessment Content, Janison Assessments, taught for more than 20 years in Sydney and NSW regional schools in addition to leading teams that worked on NAPLAN literacy projects, ACTAP (the forerunner of NAPLAN in the ACT), and writing and trialling tests for the DofE in the UK. Since arriving at Janison, she has led a team of 26 curriculum experts responsible for the development, quality and management of Janison assessment products such as ICAS, AAS tests, Reach, RiSE+, and QATs tests and tasks.
Matt Linn, School Partnerships Executive, Janison, started his career as a secondary school teacher before taking on various leadership positions within South Australia’s schools and regional offices. His role took him into behaviour support for 40 regional schools and to departmental curriculum lead and principal consultant across 32 schools before he joined Janison.
Matthew Simpson, Product Owner, Technology, Janison, spent 20 years teaching Science, Mathematics and HSC Physics in secondary education before becoming Director of Teaching and Learning at Geelong Grammar School’s Timbertop Campus. He now manages a project team in his current role, which delivers NAPLAN Online.
What are some of the key issues schools face in low socioeconomic, regional and rural areas?
Kerry: The shortage of teachers puts enormous stress on all levels of staff, sometimes resulting in reduced outcomes for students taught by teachers working beyond areas of expertise. Did you know over 2,000 permanent teaching positions are unfilled in NSW schools?
When there’s a shortage, teachers tend to prefer well-funded and high-performing schools, exacerbating the problem in remote and disadvantaged schools.
Matthew: Having spent several years in regional and low socioeconomic areas, I’ve seen what students are capable of when exposed to opportunities that wouldn’t have been available to them if not for the effort of staff driven to provide enrichment opportunities. Involvement in STEM programs and other growth opportunities has completely changed the outlook of these students’ lives. Actively breaking down barriers by providing these programs is a concerted step towards levelling the playing field.
How can organisations like Janison and the University of Sydney assist in addressing and remedying these issues?
Matt: One of the reasons I am so excited about the DEEP initiative is that it provides high-quality data and evidence-collection tools directly into the hands of schools in low socioeconomic, remote and regional communities of NSW – free of charge. These tools can support teachers in collecting and analysing data about student progress and learning needs, pinpointing where they may be struggling or where specific teaching practices have a positive impact.
It’s hugely beneficial to have a clear view of what’s working and what’s not, and tailor teaching accordingly.
Matthew: DEEP stops budget, which higher socioeconomic schools can more easily absorb, from being a blocker to these students having the ability to see how they’re going and what they need to do to reach their potential.
Kerry: These assessments are often out of scope for schools with fewer resources to fund ongoing programs such as Reach student progression tests. And we know the richest data comes from year-on-year analysis across core skill areas. DEEP is designed to overcome this by providing schools with baseline data for their first year of assessments, so they can access high-quality tests and the data and insights they provide.
How can schools use benchmarking assessments and academic competitions to improve learning experiences and outcomes?
Kerry: By programming yearly benchmarking assessments, like Reach, schools can track students’ progress in core skill development from grade to grade. They provide longitudinal data to help identify issues early and patterns in skills development, informing teachers on what they need to work on next.
They can also guide students’ reflections on their learning goals and help facilitate rich conversations about their progress.
Matt: Using benchmarking assessments, like Reach, can support more effective communication and collaboration between teachers, school leaders and families. By sharing data and evidence about student learning, teachers and school leaders can work together to develop more targeted interventions and strategies to support student success. Well-designed tests like Reach can even reduce workloads for schools, streamlining their approach to assessments and the data they provide, helping them regain precious time.
Matthew: School competitions, such as ICAS, provide opportunities for capable students to gain enormous pride by recognising their abilities. This builds hope and promise where it may not have previously been apparent. Of course, as a teacher in this role, you need to know the student. That means who they are as a person and the data that gives you insights into their strengths and weaknesses. What you do with that data is where the opportunity to close the equity gap truly lies.
Are you ready to unlock the full potential of your students? Click here for more information about DEEP and how you can leverage this free-of-charge initiative to elevate your school’s learning programs.