‘QuickSmart’ recognised as a key to ‘closing the gap’

Published 23 February 2010

mathematicsQuickSmart, an intervention program that helps school students improve their basic skills in mathematics, has been named as a “key achievement” in the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap report.

The report, published this month, includes the QuickSmart program in a list of eight “key achievements” that have contributed to improved levels of literacy and numeracy among Indigenous students. One of the stated national targets in Closing the Gap is to “halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievement for Indigenous children by 2018”.

Developed at the National Centre of Science, Information and Communication Technology and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR), which is based at the University of New England, the QuickSmart program is currently operating in more than 200 schools around Australia – a number set to double by the end of this year.

“The QuickSmart program provides intensive focused instruction aimed at improving student fluency and facility with basic numeracy facts,” the Prime Minister’s report says. It includes a table listing QuickSmart participants’ improvements in both response time and accuracy when answering questions of basic arithmetic.

Many Indigenous students are among the thousands who have benefited from QuickSmart intervention – supported by funding from Commonwealth and State governments – over the past decade. “The parents of Indigenous children in the Northern Territory report that they’re really keen to go to school on QuickSmart days,” said Professor John Pegg, the Director of SiMERR and co-developer – with Associate Professor Lorraine Graham – of the QuickSmart program. “In one year, the Indigenous students are experiencing up to three or more years’ growth – the same rate of growth as non-Indigenous students.”

QuickSmart has systematically addressed the learning needs of those middle-school students (aged 10-13) who often find themselves caught up in a cycle of continued failure in numeracy and/or literacy,” Dr Graham said. “It was heartening to see QuickSmart mentioned specifically as a ‘key achievement’ in the Closing the Gap report. We have been working with schools and QuickSmart since 2001.”

QuickSmart builds the confidence of those students who need the most support,” said Professor Victor Minichiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of UNE’s Faculty of The Professions. “A major focus of the Commonwealth Government’s agenda is to increase the education opportunities for all Australians – particularly those who are disadvantaged. It has been particularly impressive to see the data that show students from rural schools and Indigenous students improving as a result of the QuickSmart program.”

The QuickSmart literacy program, which parallels the numeracy program, is in increasing demand from schools that have successfully implemented QuickSmart numeracy. During 2010, schools from Western Sydney, rural Victoria and the New England region will join schools in the Northern Territory already implementing this program.