Keeping NAPLAN in perspective
By Robert Randall [above], CEO of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority
As we approach the May NAPLAN assessment, let's recall the purpose of NAPLAN and why it was introduced by Australia's education ministers.
NAPLAN is the only national assessment all Australian children undertake (four times across seven years of schooling in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9), replacing different state and territory assessments. It only assesses literary and numeracy, as is its intention.
Over the last 10 years, NAPLAN has been doing what it was designed to do providing data on literacy and numeracy achievements at a student, school, state/territory, and national level.
While literacy and numeracy are fundamentally important for all young people, there's no question in my mind that NAPLAN is not, and should never be, the sole measure of a child's achievement at school or of the success of a school.
The school curriculum has so much more to offer. All students should have an opportunity to study a rich curriculum for literature, science, humanities and social sciences, technology, health and physical education, languages, and the arts.
The data gained from NAPLAN have proven value. Numerous studies have been conducted using NAPLAN data, providing valuable insight into education and community issues. For example, NAPLAN data have been used recently in a University of New England study into the 'nature versus nurture' theory, where education outcomes of identical twins were tracked.
NAPLAN data have also been used by the Australian Education Union to identify gaps in achievement according to socio-economic circumstance and geographic location (December 2017) and by others to identify gaps in achievement between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and other Australian children. NAPLAN provides an evidence base for these important conversations.
For parents, NAPLAN is an important tool for seeing how their child, compared with the rest of Australia's children, progresses in gaining the fundamental skills of literacy and numeracy. It supports conversations between parents, teachers and schools on working together to help children achieve their full potential.
Schools and education systems have long recognised the value of NAPLAN data and have used them to inform decisions about improving student outcomes.
NAPLAN has evolved over the last 10 years with alignment to the Australian Curriculum, changes to the assessment of writing and reduction in time taken to return results. This year NAPLAN will be undertaken in some schools as an online assessment, meeting calls from stakeholders to make the test more engaging, to provide more precise assessment and to get the results faster, to inform decisions about teaching and learning. Once NAPLAN is online, I anticipate that further improvements will follow.
The ongoing aim for NAPLAN is to provide data on literacy and numeracy achievement to inform decisions about improving learning for all young Australians. It's not the only source of data that can be used, but it is the only national set.
As with any test in life whether academic, sport or hobby-related some students may feel anxious about NAPLAN. In these cases, it's up to the adults in students' lives to help explain what NAPLAN is all about and keep it in perspective. Remind your child that it's not a big deal, that it's a short assessment taken only four times during their school life, assessing what they normally learn in the classroom every day.
More information about NAPLAN, including fact sheets, FAQs and examples of NAPLAN questions are at www.nap.edu.au