Perceptions and uses of literacy assessment data by primary school teachers and leaders in an age of data-driven accountability

Year: 2021

Author: Carter, Jenni, Fenwick, Lisl, Comber, Barbara

Type of paper: Symposium

In an age of accountability, there is enormous pressure on schools and school systems to demonstrate how they are using data to determine levels of achievement and to progress the learning of all students. The presentation of data as the solution to inequality within schooling has been a key element of standards-based reforms to education in many countries including Australia.In this paper we are interested in the ways that discourses and practices about literacy and data are mobilised and circulated within and around education systems and institutions.  Our focus is on the ways in which a schooling system / sector grapples with public policy and configures systemic policies and processes around curriculum, pedagogy and accountability in the local context.  We draw on a two-year research project with a non-government school system. This study sought to analyse how school leaders and teachers within 4 Australian primary schools are working within a performative discourse about data that is promoted nationally and currently articulated within a state-based school system. We investigated the data sets about literacy that schools’ leaders and teachers are valuing and their reasoning for prioritising certain forms of data. We found an initial reliance on commercial teaching programs and assessments that narrowed assessment practices and limited meaningful connections with pedagogy.  This initial finding informed the way in which the researchers worked with school leaders and teachers within the 4 schools to broaden perceptions of assessment data, value the role of the classroom teacher and make meaningful connections between assessment, curriculum and pedagogy. The development of school-based practitioner inquiry projects in collaboration with the research team, allowed for this work to occur. Of interest is the ways in which school leaders and teachers can be supported within a research partnership to challenge a narrow discourse about literacy assessment and to reposition the role of the classroom teacher and local school leaders in literacy curriculum, assessment practices and related pedagogy