What Happened at Dallas Primary School?
Dallas Primary School in Broadmeadow, Victoria, went from well below national standards in the 2008 NAPLAN test to well above in 2010. How?
Former education department bureaucrat John Nelson said the Dallas results were ”gobsmacking”. Despite a large migrant population and low socio-economic status, year 3 students were reading, spelling and understanding grammar and punctuation at significantly higher levels than the national average for year 5 students. In grammar and punctuation, the school’s year 3 students outstripped its year 5 students, by a score of 596 to 522.
The students’ improvement from year 3 in 2008 to year 5 in 2010 was enormous, putting year 5 students at near year 8 levels.
In the 2010 test last May, only 74 per cent of Dallas Primary students sat the test; 20 per cent were ”withdrawn” and 7 per cent ”absent”. The national average attendance was 96 per cent.
Leading to suggestions that children who were struggling may have been told to stay home, or not allowed to take the test.
Other Victorian principals are suspicious. Doug Conway, principal of the western suburban Kings Park Primary School, believes the ”lowest-performing kids were told to stay at home”.
”If you did that at my school, the low SES, high non-English-speaking background children, we’d get a colossal spike,” he said. ”I think the pressure on schools has led some schools to have lower participation rates than they should have.”
The school says this is not so. But they have refused to talk about what methods they used to achieve such a massive jump in academic performance.
Mr Nelson, who quit his Education Department job because he thought a departmental investigation into Dallas was ”a whitewash”, asked: ”What did they do that took a kid in Broadmeadows from the bottom 10th or 20th percentile and put them in the top percentile? Whatever they did needs to be copied by everybody, so why hasn’t it? Why didn’t they celebrate their methods?”
Dallas Primary, if you did get it right, if you did achieve this miracle, please share your methods so children in other schools can benefit too.