Reading levels for South Australian Year 1 students have risen again, as results from the 2020 Phonics Screening Check show significant improvement for the second year in a row.
63 per cent of Year 1 students met or exceeded the expected achievement level this year, up from 52 per cent last year, and from 43 per cent in 2018 when the check was first introduced for all Year 1 students.
Significant improvements were achieved for Aboriginal students (up 11 percentage points from last year), students with a verified disability (up 14 percentage points), students who speak English as an additional language or dialect (up 13 percentage points), and schools serving the most disadvantaged communities (up 12 percentage points).
The number of students unable to decode any of the words in the check also decreased for the second year running, down to just 2 per cent of students.
To accommodate COVID-19 restrictions, 1600 teachers and leaders completed online professional training in administering the check, analysing results and designing interventions for individual students in response to their achievement.
South Australia was the first state in Australia to implement a statewide Phonics Screening Check for students in 2018, implementing a key election commitment for which the Marshall Liberal Government had long argued.
The simple 5-7 minute check consists of 40 words which are delivered through a mixture of 20 real words and 20 pseudo-words. An expected achievement score of 28 out of 40 is used as a marker to assist teachers in identifying how a student is tracking against the Australian Curriculum.
Education Minister John Gardner said the cumulative improvement in results indicated that schools were implementing the right measures and practices to improve literacy learning.
“This dramatic statewide improvement shows South Australian public schools are delivering impactful literacy learning and support to all students to progress in their reading,” said Minister Gardner.
“An improvement of 20 percentage points in just two years is a massive step forward and should be seen as a big tick of approval for the reforms we have put in place.
“The introduction of the Phonics Check has enabled a fresh emphasis on the quality of reading instruction in our schools and, while the signs continue to be very encouraging, we will continue to do more to keep improving literacy outcomes for our students.
“I am confident these results will encourage our hard working teachers and education leaders to keep up the momentum to improve the reading and literacy outcomes for children and young people across the state.
“COVID-19 restrictions may have influenced the training and timing for the check, but our primary educators and Year 1 students overcame these disruptions to deliver outstanding improvement.
“These results should give parents and the wider community every confidence in the quality of teaching in reading that is occurring in our public schools.
“Importantly, results from the Check provide our teachers with a useful picture of where individual students are at in this fundamental aspect of reading, so they can implement the right support for those who are struggling.
“We will continue to work with our schools and learn from those who have shown the greatest improvement to ensure that the very best practices are used statewide.
“We will also continue to work with organisation such as SPELD, along with well-respected academics, to ensure the implementation of our Literacy Guarantee program continues to help schools improve results.”
Data on the 2020 Phonics Screening Check results can be found here.