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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 1 May 2007) . . Page.. 747 ..

We have had to move on without the commonwealth. The states and territories have agreed to work together to ensure that a national assessment program is successfully implemented in 2008. The ACT has taken a lead role in this debate on national testing and will continue to do so. For example, the ACT chairs the recently formed steering committee on the national assessment program.

At the education ministers meeting, I presented a policy paper, Testing times, outlining the principles that should guide national testing. I also proposed the establishment of a national literacy and numeracy bank. Such a bank would make a variety of tests available to teachers online, which they could access at any time.

The bank would provide a number of benefits. Teachers could use the tests throughout the school year, not just during the annual testing period. Teachers could use the tests for a variety of year levels, not just years 3, 5, 7 and 9 that are part of the national testing approach. Teachers would be able to use the material from the bank to create their own tests. Tests could be tailored to meet the needs of individual classes and individual students.

These proposals were well received by other state and territory ministers and will continue to be developed as we work towards the implementation of a national testing scheme in 2008. We take the introduction of national testing very seriously and will always act to promote the interests of ACT students and their families in this process.

It is important to note that national testing will not single-handedly raise education standards. Properly implemented, national testing will help teachers target their programs to meet the individual needs of students. This is where the real benefit lies.

Parents rightly have expectations about what a testing system should deliver. They want and expect a meaningful report on the performance of their child or children and want to know how their child is travelling compared to ACT and national benchmarks.

The fundamental issue at stake was that the commonwealth government sought to receive a level of data down to an individual school level, with no protection on student or school privacy, and were seeking solely to publish league tables. Their endeavour was to seek to publish league tables that would compare the performance of students in individual schools in these national tests and pit individuals against individuals and pit individual schools against individual schools. That is not a constructive approach. If this national testing is to have any benefit, it needs to be applied at a local school level, working within state and territory jurisdictions to improve outcomes for students. It should not be about pitting school against school.

Unfortunately, when the states and territories refused the commonwealth access to this level of data, the Howard government walked away from national testing. I am hopeful that a future Rudd government will recognise the role that the commonwealth has to play and will work with the states and territories to properly resource a national testing regime and address the significant privacy issues that are in place.

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