This week the ABC picked up a story on ATARs in NSW and the ACT, fuelling the flames about entry standards for ITE programs.
The article, published on the ABC News website, describes a report authored by John Mack (now retired) and Rachel Wilson from U Syd describing low ATARs for ITE programs in 2015 in NSW and ACT.
Both the University of Sydney and the Australian Council of Deans have responded. The press release from ACDE provides some useful context and I provide it in full below.
The Australian Council of Deans of Education regrets the latest destructive attack on the selection of teaching students – this time through a 2015 New South Wales report that preceded the past three years of major national teacher education reforms.
‘If we want to attract and retain the best teachers, it’s vital to move beyond this singular focus on the low ATAR scores’, ACDE President, Tania Aspland, says.
‘That negative focus is being used to denigrate all teaching students and the teaching profession when, in fact, the numbers refer to a minute cohort of teaching students and do not reflect the specifics of each case.’ she says.
Earlier this year, the Mitchell Institute released a report that said only one in four domestic undergraduate students was admitted to courses based on an ATAR. The report said:
This does not match the message reinforced by schools, families and the media that ATAR is everything.
‘In reality, three of every four of teaching students gain entry through a sophisticated range of selection methods, which universities use to choose teacher education students with the right mix of academic and personal traits. These include looking at prior experience, interviews or psychometric tests,’ Professor Aspland, says.
‘Before teaching students graduate, they must also meet clearly defined professional teaching standards and the new numeracy and literacy test for teaching students,’ she says.
CONTEXT IS CRITICAL
Teaching students may be allowed in with lower ATARs because:
• Their ATAR may have been acquired years before their university entry and they may have mature-age experience and achievements to bring into teaching
• They’re given special consideration due to personal circumstances (such as the death of a parent) as their low ATAR doesn’t reflect prior academic performance
• As a member of a disadvantaged group, they’re granted access to a pathway course during which they would have to prove they’re capable of undertaking teacher education.
WHAT THE EVIDENCE SAYS
The Mitchell Report found that many students with average or comparatively low senior secondary results do well once at university.
In 2014, the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group report, which has underpinned the raft of recent reforms in teacher education, found:
Research indicates ATAR is a good predictor of success for students entering university with strong secondary school performance but loses predictive capability for those entering university with lower scores. Many students with average or comparatively low senior secondary results also do well once at university
While rankings are clearly a very good predictor of performance in engineering, agriculture and science, the relationship is low for education.