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  What Works - The Work Program

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Working with data

How are you going to prove you're getting better outcomes if you don't collect data?

Why collect data? | Objectives in data collection | What tests are used and when? | Problems with the testing instruments

Why collect data?

Steve Foster talks about why data collection is so important at Badu:

Way back in 1996 I had a talk to the community and the staff about... if we're saying we're going to get better outcomes we need to collect data to say... what are we measuring it against? What are we benchmarking? Instead of just saying generally I think we're getting better every year. How do you prove that? So we tested every student in the school from Grade 2 up with literacy, reading, writing, numeracy, with number and comprehension ...

And now we use the results to encourage students to get better results, and to look at the professional development needs of the teachers and the parents. If we find there is a particular thing that is not working, how do we make it work? It may be that we have to get an expert in to do some workshops. It may be that we visit another school to look at some best practice. It may be that we look at the expertise within our school and use that.

So we've collected data over a number of years and I think it's been one of the most powerful things that have happened in the school. But we use it in a positive way not a negative way. If we are looking at a particular child and they're not getting any results or the results are going down we ask why. And I can call the teachers in to say look how can we get better results? It's not like I'm keeping a tab on you or you're going to get in trouble. It's just that this isn't happening so how can we make it better?

But we're on about and we keep saying we're on about outcomes for students.

Objectives in data collection

  • To track student progress throughout their primary schooling years.
  • To identify school trends.
  • To identify individual students (or teachers) who require extra support.
  • To inform class programs and planning.
  • To inform class and school intervention programs.
  • To identify good practice. Examples...
  • To celebrate individual, class and school achievements.
  • To monitor teacher performance.
  • To be accountable for school programs and organisation.
  • To accurately report to parents.

What tests are used and when?

To ensure consistency, testing is done by Deputy Principal Kay AhMat. The following measuring tools are used according to a pre-determined timetable each year.

  • Salford: All students are tested with the Salford Reading Scale at least four times each year. The results are compiled into tables and graphs for each class. An example...
  • Year 2 NET: Results are collated annually. An example...
  • Continua: All continua are updated at least twice a year at the end of each semester. An example...
  • Comprehension: Waddington testing for comprehension is carried out twice a year. This is a relatively new procedure after trialing of other tools and will continue until a better test is available.
  • Spelling: Waddington spelling testing is also done twice a year with data being collated annually.
  • ESL Adapted Bands: Teachers continually update the bandscales which are being trialed. Students from Year 1-4 have currently been mapped on the Oral Language Bandscales. Year 3 and 4 students are currently being mapped on the writing bandscales.
  • Reading running records: Are done at least every semester for every student.

Problems with the testing instruments

The school is not uncritical of the testing instruments used. Steve and Kay believe that the cultural biases of some of the tests disadvantage Badu Island kids, and they quote examples of tests which require students to read words like 'kennel', when Badu Island dogs live outside and the idea of a kennel is completely foreign.

They also note that the testing instruments were not on the whole designed for students learning English as a third or fourth language, which is the case with many Badu Island students.

Steve and Kay believe that some of the tests are better used to monitor improvement, or lack of it, rather than delivering an accurate measurement of, for instance, reading age. They believe, for example, that students' reading ages are probably at least six months in advance of those shown by the tests.

Over the years, there have been times when a particular group of students' results have jumped abnormally quickly. Identifying these times has allowed the school to examine best practice in individual classrooms.

Examples of this are:

  • Guided reading: A particular teacher implemented guided reading where specific reading skills were taught explicitly in small groups. The result of this was big jumps in the reading tests and reading continua.
  • English speaking teacher aides: On a number of occasions the school has managed to put an English speaking teacher aide with an Indigenous teacher. On all occasions, student results were very impressive. This is an organisational model not really used before, but one that the school now wishes to research further.
  • Grouping of classes: Results improved after different class groupings were trialled.


  • Because accurate data are kept on the number of indicators students have attained, it is able to be collated to give overall school trends.
  • The data illustrate that progress is being made over the years at Badu.
  • Student progress is clearly illustrated and can be celebrated.

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