B1 and B2 are doing NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) this week. I’m not a big fan of NAPLAN.

I was in my second year of teaching when NAPLAN was introduced and I had my first cohort of Year 7s go through the process. At the time it was new to all teachers, and I remember there being a general sense that NAPLAN could be a good diagnostic tool, helping us to identify students who were slipping through the cracks or flying under the radar. It didn’t take long, in my opinion, for NAPLAN results to become weaponised against schools and teachers.

NAPLAN provides a snapshot of a very specific set of measures. This snapshot can be useful for providing schools and governments with general trends, and it can alert teachers to students who’s in class assessments don’t tally with their NAPLAN results – for example the student who struggles in English but blitzed the English component of NAPLAN. But this information doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about how ‘good’ a school is, or their staff, or if a child will thrive at that school. It certainly shouldn’t be used for league tables and to compare schools. Doing so leads to the sort of behaviour where we see schools ranked in newspapers, or the parents of some children asked to keep them at home (which is deplorable and makes a mockery of the assessment as a diagnostic tool for teachers).

As educators we know that valid assessments are ones that:

  • Focuses only on content and skills that have been taught
  • Produce the same results across multiple assessments and at different times, when completed by the same students
  • Are fair in that they don’t advantage one group of students over another – for example native and non-native language speakers

As far as an assessment of student learning, I don’t think NAPLAN hits these marks for validity. And that would fine, except some commentators use it as if it does.

I tell my kids now the same thing I told my students then: do your best because you should always try your hardest, but you don’t need to worry about it, it’s just something the Education System wants you to do, but it wont mean much to you. In other words, stress less, take a chill pill! (And now I’m really showing my age)

Are your kids or students doing NAPLAN this week? What are your thoughts about the assessment? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Wendy Allott

I'm an educator, mum and wife living in beautiful Victoria, Australia. I make learning resources for passionate, but time-poor, teachers in need of a better work-life balance. I'm a voracious reader, love a good curry, and believe life is always better with chocolate.

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