What works? First findings from the independent evaluation of the National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy

This report was originally published 30 January 2013.

Image: What works? First findings from the independent evaluation of the National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy

Summary

The first independent evaluation of the National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy in New South Wales schools across all sectors is complete. It provides important evidence about how to build quality teaching practices that will improve student outcomes.

Key findings

The evaluation shows that schools can bring about significant change by:

  • taking a whole-school approach to improving student outcomes
  • adopting explicit teaching strategies, where teachers identify key learning outcomes from the outset
  • using data to improve whole-school planning and student outcomes
  • increasing teacher collaboration and shared responsibility for student outcomes
  • demonstrating effective instructional leadership, where principals play an active role in directing the delivery of teaching in their schools
  • measuring the impact of quality teaching on student learning behaviours.

The National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy – doing things differently

The National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy was built on the understanding that teachers are the single greatest in-school influence on student outcomes. International research tells us that teachers account for about 30 per cent of variation in student outcomes – ‘It is what teachers know, do, and care about which is very powerful in the learning equation’1.

The gap in outcomes between a student who has a less effective teacher and a student who has a highly effective teacher can be as much as a full year’s difference in achievement2.

In the past, attempts to improve literacy and numeracy skills in New South Wales have focused on lifting the outcomes of underperforming students, through the provision of multiple, overlapping, and often narrowly focused programs, rather than on improving the quality of teaching.

Recognising the weakness of this approach, schools involved in the National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy tackled the task of improving students’ literacy and numeracy skills holistically. Participating schools focused on the broad uptake of quality teaching practices – the rigorous use of data, increased teacher collaboration, universally high expectations, and explicit teaching – to ensure that all students would receive the teaching they need for high achievement.

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