The successful Catholic Education Office Melbourne and University of Melbourne co-developed Literacy Assessment Project will be rolled out across 600 Victorian public schools.
The project started out in 19 Catholic schools some four years ago, administered by the university's Graduate School of Education, aiming to improve the literacy skills of children in grades 3 and 4 by using test scores to determine how well students could read. It has resulted in students from several schools improving their reading ability by at least three times Victoria's state average, the university has found.
Each student was categorised at a different level according to their test scores. Teachers then learnt how to analyse the data, and worked in teams to tailor programs to each child's level of ability.
In one school, pupils achieved five times the average gain in reading ability within a year, The Age reported.
It is hoped the expanded program would tackle underperformance across Victoria's education system.
"Essentially it was about helping teachers to use test data to identify where the kids were developing, and then get the teachers to discuss among themselves how best to intervene," program head Professor Patrick Griffin was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
"It seems relatively simple, but the interesting thing is that when we first started working with the teachers, they would admit they were not very good with this type of decision making, or at understanding how to intervene with kids of different levels of ability.
"But within a two and a half year period, the whole way in which they taught really changed.
"And after about three years, we began to see these stunning changes to the kids' performance in reading comprehension."
Carmel Armiento, literacy co-ordinator at St John's Primary in Heidelberg, one of the original pilot schools, said the program was mutually beneficial: students improved reading skills, and teachers learned to work together.
"Our teachers felt empowered because it gave them the opportunity to better understand their students' abilities and focus their teaching to meet the needs of their students more effectively," she said.
It was announced this week that the program would receive a $860,000 grant from the Australian Research Council, for further research.
Pilot sets new high in literacy (The Age)
Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Literacy Assessment Project
Catholic Education Office Melbourne
New boost for literacy learning in Vic schools