NAPLAN 2023 testing across Australia for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 was undertaken this week. This testing has come under much scrutiny through the media in recent years with the argument divided as to whether the tests are a worthwhile exercise or not.
Whilst being familiar with the test structures and time allocations is essential, at St Catherine’s it was business as usual leading up to, during and after these tests. NAPLAN is a point in time measure of a student. At St Catherine’s School our teachers continually monitor and adapt learning for our girls, so they get the most out of their time at school.
NAPLAN has undertaken sweeping changes in recent years with students completing the tests entirely online, except for Year 3 Writing, and the addition of new proficiency standards established with four achievement levels now defined as: Exceeding, Strong, Developing and Needs additional support. These standards will replace the previous 10-Band structure and the old national minimum standard originally set in 2008.
Changes to the timing and reporting of results will enable more effective use of the test data that NAPLAN generates. With the move to conduct the assessments online, it is now possible to provide more personalised results with students’ reports available in July. This in effect will encourage greater use of the results to inform teaching and support students, rather than simply to create league tables of school performance.
The original purpose of NAPLAN testing was to provide teachers and parents with diagnostic information relating to individual student performance in the areas of literacy and numeracy. Such information can then assist educators to design appropriate intervention programs to bring about improved learning outcomes for students. As a School, we also use NAPLAN data as a tool to review our teaching practices for each cohort.
Our School curriculum is directed by the Australian Curriculum, which is guided by the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. The Melbourne Declaration emphasises the importance of knowledge, understanding, and skills. The Declaration values a range of cross-disciplinary skills that will support all young Australians to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens. NAPLAN does not test for these global aims that the Australian Curriculum has set out to achieve.
In recent years, some schools have undertaken lengthy NAPLAN preparation within the classroom curriculum time, with many now giving students excessive test practice, teaching to the test and narrowing their students’ learning experiences in various ways. Whilst I believe students need enough practice with tests to ensure they are familiar with the form of testing that NAPLAN will provide, beyond this, I believe the best way for schools to develop their students’ literacy and numeracy skills is to provide a rich curriculum with reading and writing and the use of mathematics in a wide variety of learning areas.
NAPLAN is considered high-stakes testing, but it is important to acknowledge that such testing is not the panacea for a country’s education system.