Around this time of year, it is common for the controversial discussion about the validity and purpose of National Assessment Program - Literacy And Numeracy (NAPLAN) to resurface amongst parents, teachers and schools. With the release of individual results, schools, teachers and students are under intense scrutiny and often the intended purpose and aim of NAPLAN data is lost in a sea of comparison and finger-pointing blame.
According to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), NAPLAN tests “the sorts of skills that are essential for every child to progress through school and life, such as reading, writing, spelling, grammar and numeracy. It is important to remember that NAPLAN is not about passing or failing, but about assessing learning progress. At the classroom level it is one of a number of important tools used by teachers to measure student progress.”
The testing process was somewhat different this year with the introduction of online testing which has been riddled with criticism from teachers and educational experts questioning the validity of comparable data with those who sat the pen and paper test. ACARA released a statement prior to the release of the data this year reassuring the public that their “data analysts and measurement advisory experts have advised the data is valid and comparable.”
NAPLAN is designed to be a tool that assists schools to improve the learning of all young Australian students, however, it is important to acknowledge that it is one snapshot of time. It is cannot measure classroom engagement, creativity or confidence. It does not take into account exam performance anxiety or other external factors influencing students on test day. That said, it is still a valuable tool for schools to identify needs and analyse results in order to personalise learning and track growth. NAPLAN is not the ‘be all and end all’ of education, it is simply one tool that can be used in conjunction with many other tools to improve the education of all Australian students.
Sara Drebber is an educational consultant, teacher, writer and mother of three.