In 2020, school communities survived without NAPLAN. They taught, they assessed, they reported, and – most importantly – they supported. From that lesson, we should reimagine the testing regime so that schools and students can be supported to thrive.
Fiona Longmuir, Jane Wilkinson and Amanda Heffernan reflect upon NAPLAN in light of the changes associated with the current crisis. With so much focus on wellbeing, they question why we persist with the same model, especially when other such tests are sample based. This is elaborated on within such books as
- Shifting NAPLAN to be a sample assessment, rather than assessing entire student cohorts. This would enable monitoring of system trends over time, and was suggested by the federal review as a possible solution to address some of the negative consequences of NAPLAN.
- Valuing a rich repertoire of assessments with teachers’ professional judgements being the basis of reporting to parents and students. Sample assessments such as NAPLAN that monitor the education system can be included, but should be “used only by schools and teachers as one piece of evidence contributing to reports to parents/carers, students and local education authorities”. (2020 federal review of NAPLAN, p10).
- The removal of the My School website. Its detrimental impacts that allow league tables of schools to be assembled has perverted and distorted the fundamental purpose of our education systems.
- Fair funding. Among OECD nations, Australia has a highly inequitable system of public education funding. A fairer system of funding that provides the resources and support that all students need to maximise their potential would improve achievement and social outcomes for every community across the country.
- Trust teachers and school leaders. NAPLAN and the associated focus on narrow measures of achievement have resulted in reduced trust in the professionalism and quality of our educators. Believing in their abilities and trusting in their expertise to know their students would lift the learning of all students in the best ways for them, not just for their test scores.
- Listen to students. With disengagement and mental ill-health at concerning levels, we need to put more time and resources into understanding the experiences of students in our schools.
It is interesting to think about this alongside
. Although I assume DeWitt is talking about focusing at a local level, I wonder if the real challenge in regards to de-implementation is actually at a systems level?
and . In response, they provide six ways to reimagine NAPLAN:
That is confusing. It feels like people have forgotten the purpose of its design. Isn’t it only ever indicative?
I recently started reading Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities. For me this captures the problem with such things as NAPLAN where students are feed formulas to ‘pass the test’, but then struggle to find a voice in their writing. What frustrates me is that the test would achieve the same validity if it were based on a sample group as PISA is. However, there are some who want it both ways. Not only do they want the systemic pulse check, but they want the individual pulse check too.
What is slightly disconcerting is that it is hard to find anyone who was surprised by this, especially those who were around during the days of the Ultranet.
Dale Pearce on Reviewing MySchools
At the national level, however, the story is different. What NAPLAN is good for, and indeed what it was originally designed for, is to provide a national snapshot of student ability, and conducting comparisons between different groups (for example, students with a language background other than English and students from English-speaking backgrounds) on a national level.
This is important data to have. It tells us where support and resources are needed in particular. But we could collect the data we need this by using a rigorous sampling method, where a smaller number of children are tested (a sample) rather than having every student in every school sit tests every few years. This a move that would be a lot more cost effective, both financially and in terms of other costs to our education system.
Nicole Mockler summarises Margaret Wu’s work.around the limitations to NAPLAN in regards to statistical testing. Moving forward, Mockler suggests that NAPLAN should become a sample based test (like PISA) and is better suited as a tool for system wide analysis. To me, there is a strange balance where on the one hand many agree that NAPLAN is flawed, yet again and again we return to it as a source of ‘truth’.
NAPLAN has now been in place for a decade and needs ongoing review and refinement to make it more useful to classroom teaching and learning.
To me, Geoff Masters’ post sounds like making NAPLAN like PAT testing?