Newman – Frequently Asked Questions
What is Newman?
In Sydney Catholic Schools, Newman accredited schools, like MMCC, offer specialised groupings and programs for identified academically gifted and talented students to provide opportunities for such students to realise their full intellectual potential. At MMCC, Year 7 – 10 students are flexibly grouped according to like intellectual ability, NOT achievement, into the Newman selective stream, Core and Structured. In Newman selective classes, students learn at a faster pace, are challenged in depth, breadth and complexity.
How are students selected to be in Newman selective stream?
For incoming Year 6 into Year 7, students are required to sit the AGAT test. Their percentile scores in this test, coupled with recommendation by their schools, school achievement reports, Naplan scores and a writing test will earn their place in the Newman class. The teachers monitor their progress, and if there is evidence that students are not coping with the pace of learning in Newman classes, they can be recommended to move to the other groupings. Generally, movement occurs at the end of semester 1, and at the end of semester 2. For Mathematics groupings, Year 7 students are tested using PAT-Maths tests. Last year, Year 8 and 10 students were also tested with AGAT and movement across the ability groupings were made, based on these groupings. This year, Year 6, 8 and 10 students will also be tested with AGAT.
What is AGAT? Why is it used?
AGAT is a 40-minute general ability test that MMCC has acquired from ACER. We have decided to use AGAT as it is a general ability test, NOT a knowledge test, and it determines students’ intellectual ability into 3 strands: verbal ability, numerical ability and abstract (or visual) ability. These tests have been developed by ACER, that allow for comparison with typical students in a year level in Australia. Students’ scores of the different strands (verbal, numerical and abstract) allow teachers to identify students’ specific strengths and developmental needs, which are used to differentiate learning in the classroom. Newman schools across SCS use other similar general ability tests to group students as well.
Who decides student placement in Newman classes?
A team of teachers, comprising the Leader of Learning (Professional Learning), Newman Coordinator, Diverse Learning Needs Coordinator, Case Manager for the Year level, examine the data and together with teacher recommendations, move students between the groups, after their initial placing in Year 7. Input by parents as well as Year Coordinators are also considered.
If students are selected to be in Newman, will they be in Newman for all the subjects?
In Year 7 & 8, Newman students are in the same class for all the subjects, except Maths. Students are regrouped differently in Mathematics, based on their Mathematical Ability, as indicated by the results of their PAT Maths tests. When students are in Year 9 & 10, they are in the same Newman for the main core subjects, English, Science, PDHPE and RE. They are again regrouped separately for Maths in the advanced, intermediate and standard. They are in mixed ability groups for the electives. In CLC, students are also in mixed ability groups, according to their houses.
Is Newman different from selective schools? If so, how?
Firstly, testing for selective schools is done differently. In selective schools, students sit for a main selective school exam, which involve reading, writing, mathematics and general ability tests. Students are selected on the basis of both the selective school exam and school achievement results. Almost all of these tests require students to have a certain proficient level of literacy to do well. On the other hand, the tests used in Newman schools, as in MMCC, are not entirely literacy-based. For example, the abstract strand of the AGAT test involves pictures and logic puzzles. This helps us identify students who may not be strong in their verbal skills but have very strong critical thinking skills. Selection into Newman classes is also NOT solely based on performance in these tests, but teacher recommendation, as well as parent nomination are also taken into account. Furthermore, teachers teaching in selective schools do NOT have to be trained in Gifted Education. At MMCC, all teachers teaching Newman classes have to be trained in Gifted Education. Finally, at MMCC, students get the benefits of a selective school as well as an added advantage of opportunities at leadership, mentoring others, and the many activities that form the person as a whole. (eg social justice issues, fund-raising, etc)
Can a student move from Core to Newman? When and how?
As mentioned before, students may move from Core to Newman, based on teacher nomination as well as parent nomination. Evidence from all teachers teaching the student, which involve students’ work, and teacher observation, will be taken into account and the team of teachers, led by the Leader of Learning (Professional Learning) will decide whether students would benefit by such a move. Movement generally occurs at the end of each semester. Parents will be informed of the move.
Can a student move from Newman to Core? When and how?
In the same way, students may move from Newman to Core, based on teacher nomination as well as parent nomination. Evidence from all teachers teaching the student, which involve students’ work, and teacher observation, will be taken into account and the team of teachers, led by the Leader of Learning (Professional Learning) will decide whether students would benefit by such a move. Movement generally occurs at the end of each semester. In both points 7 & 8, movement between the groupings is only recommended when it is considered the best pathway to improve student learning.
In what way is a Newman class different from the other classes?
Common core content is still taught, as with other classes, but because of the ability of gifted students to master the content faster, the Newman teacher, may at times explore content at different levels of complexity, breadth and depth, depending on the needs of the different students. Differentiation still exists within the Newman class and the Newman teacher may have to at times, scaffold the work to meet the needs of the individual students, just as in other core classes.
Apart from being grouped into Newman classes, what other program options are available at MMCC for Gifted students?
Apart from compacting and extending the curriculum for the class, there have been cases, whereby if a teacher can identify a student who is capable of handling content in the next stage, this is carefully planned and proposed. Last year, a Year 7 student completed the Year 8 Maths course with her yr 7 Newman Maths class, and a Year 9 student completed the Year 10 advanced Maths course while still with her Year 9 Newman Maths class. This year, both students have been subject-accelerated in Maths, and have been placed with the higher Maths class, while still remaining with their same year level cohort in other subjects.
Other program options include enrichment activities such as the Mind in Maths Competitions, the Neuroscience Brain Bee competitions, Science Olympiads, Tournament of the Minds, Writers’ Challenge, etc. MMCC have always done very well in such competitions, often winning the top prizes. Newman students will also be invited to participate in the Gifted Education Program run by UNSW.
If I believe my child is gifted, can I request that she be placed into Newman?
Generally, a meeting will take place between the parent and Gifted Coordinator and a discussion on the child’s ability will take place. Parents are also encouraged to get their child IQ-tested, with their psychologist, if the school’s testing does not indicate suitability for Gifted.
Are students in the Newman classes unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged in being in the Newman classes?
ALL students, regardless of being in Newman, will be assessed according to the achievement standards set by NESA (formerly BOSTES). These standards are common across all the ability groupings and ALL students receive the same assessment. The only difference in Newman classes, is that Newman students will receive an extension part of their task, whereby they can show their application of the content in terms of depth, breadth or complexity beyond the stage. Because Newman students complete and master the core content at a faster pace, they will have opportunities to explore greater content BEYOND their level, when it is considered appropriate. If they are able to show achievement at this higher level, they will be considered to have achieved an “EXTENSION” and this is recorded in their school report, together with their achievement grade of the common parts of the task. Again, as in all other classes, differentiation occurs in Newman classes as well.
Newman teachers are trained to recognise that even gifted students have different needs and will vary the pace and content accordingly to suit different abilities.