Manning Adventist School comes out tops

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Manning Adventist School in northern NSW isn’t the type of school you’d expect to find in the top 1 per cent in Australia. It’s small. It’s rural. And its parking lot isn’t jam-packed with Porsches and Mercedes. But The Australian’s analysis of the 2014 Australia-wide NAPLAN test scores reports that little Manning Adventist scored in the top 100 primary schools in the entire nation—putting it among the elite of the elite!

New principal Mike Dye states on the school’s website that Manning Adventist is: “committed to developing personal excellence through academics . . .” But even he was surprised by the NAPLAN results. “It has come as a very pleasant shock to me,” he said when contacted about the extraordinary performance. And that pleasant shock only deepens when the numbers are analysed more closely. Manning Adventist scored first overall among all the schools in the Manning Valley region and first in spelling for the entire nation among non-government, co-educational provincial schools. 

We are very thankful for this exceptional result but our school is about a lot more than percentiles. Our first priority is making disciples for Christ.

“We are very thankful for this exceptional result,” Mr Dye said, “but our school is about a lot more than percentiles. Our first priority is making disciples for Christ. What I’m most proud of is who our students are all round—spiritually, academically, socially and physically. We have terrific kids who are a pleasure to teach, and terrifically loving, supportive families who are willing to invest in their children. And I’m thankful for our outstanding team of teachers. 

“We’re a small school, and that means little changes year to year can see our NAPLAN scores go up and down. We’ll enjoy being among the elite but our goal isn’t to be in one category or another but rather to help every individual student to be their best, all-round person.”

Principal Mike Dye with Manning Adventist School students.

Manning isn’t the only Adventist school to excel in the NAPLAN report. Wahroonga Adventist School in Sydney followed its exceptionally strong performance in 2013 to place in the top 3 per cent of Australian primary schools in 2014. Macquarie Adventist College (primary school) in Newcastle scored in the top 7.5 per cent of the nation, Nunawading Adventist (high school) in Melbourne in the top 8.4 per cent and Hills Adventist College (primary school) in Sydney in the top 9.7 per cent. A number of Adventist schools achieved in the top quarter in the nation, including Macquarie Adventist College (high school), which scored in the top 11.6 per cent.

“NAPLAN scores are only part of the overall picture of education,” said Daryl Murdoch, director of Adventist Schools Australia. “They are an important snapshot at a point in time. But it’s wrong to read too much into them.” 

The report indicates there is a very strong correlation between students’ socio-economic status and NAPLAN results. This raises at least three questions when analysing the data: 

  • First, is the test itself written in a subtly biased manner that reflects the common experience of the Australian upper-middle class? After all, the people writing the test are likely to be from the upper-middle class and therefore they may write it in a manner that unconsciously advantages children from similar economic strata. This may include, for example, pulling vocabulary and questions from the culture of the wealthier suburbs. 
  • Second, NAPLAN only covers basic skills. It doesn’t measure such critical skills as creativity and emotional intelligence. And it certainly doesn’t measure character or spirituality. While these attributes may be very hard to test, they may be even more important than raw academics for predicting the trajectory of a student’s life.
  • Finally, because of the strong correlation between economic background and NAPLAN performance, the best performing schools could be considered those that manage the highest positive percentile gap between their socio-economic makeup and their NAPLAN scores. 

Click HERE for a full analysis of Australian Adventist schools NAPLAN scores.