Three-state review of NAPLAN under way
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 6, 16 August 2019, page no. 8
The federal government’s refusal to agree to a full review of NAPLAN has prompted frustrated states to strike out on their own.
At the 28 June meeting between state and federal Ministers at the Education Council, Federal Minister Dan Tehan refused to concede that a NAPLAN review was necessary. It seems that the ongoing concerns of stakeholders over the purpose and implementation of these tests, issues regarding the use and validity of NAPLAN data, and recent widespread technological difficulties were not enough to warrant a closer look.
In response, three state Education Ministers, including Queensland’s Grace Grace, decided to conduct a tri-state review into these tests, recognising the necessity to take stock after 10 years of NAPLAN.
“That’s why the Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales governments have taken the matter into our own hands, and we will work together to conduct a review outside of the Education Council’s endorsement,” Ms Grace said.
The Minister’s office advised that the states were still negotiating the review’s scope and terms of reference, but that Queensland’s work in this area meant that it was already able to contribute to the process.
In July, QTU Biennial Conference delegates congratulated the Ministers for initiating a review of NAPLAN testing and determined that, if the forthcoming review does not recommend an end to NAPLAN testing by the start of 2020, the QTU will ballot members to ban that year’s NAPLAN testing.
Productivity Commission report
The tri-state review is timely, coming as it does after the Queensland Productivity Commission released a paper which attempts to capture school productivity using NAPLAN data.
The paper, written by Sarah Cornell-Farrow, a PhD candidate from the University of Adelaide’s School of Economics, attempts to quantify Queensland schools’ productivity using school funding (input) against school enrolments (output), adjusted using NAPLAN or senior certificate attainment results.
Despite claiming 3.07 per cent annual growth in productivity for Queensland, such a narrow view of school productivity is hugely problematic. As educators, we know a quality Queensland state school education provides a plethora of benefits that are not considered in this paper, including continued engagement in education and lifelong learning, and long-term health, occupational and societal benefits. The author acknowledges the limitations of the data that underpins the report and that it fails to comprehend the complexity of our schools and students.
Furthermore, without a review into NAPLAN, the use of this data to determine sector productivity is worrying, given that there are serious concerns about the validity, scope and use of NAPLAN results.
The report, which draws its data from ACARA’s Data Access Program, also claims that there is no explanation for ongoing improvements in NAPLAN achievement in Queensland – demonstrating the author’s limited understanding of our education system.
This report comes as the QTU and the department begin reviewing the NAPLAN Joint Statement, as well as the Joint Statement on the Purpose and Use of Data in Queensland Schools.
Talks began late last term, with the QTU hoping to clarify some elements of the statement and include information about the online implementation of these tests and findings from the 2018 Queensland Review of NAPLAN.
Once the new joint statements have been finalised, the QTU will begin updating the suite of information that accompanied the previous NAPLAN statement, as well as creating a similar package of support documents for the data joint statement to assist members in enacting these statements in our schools.
QTU Conference also recommended that Union Representatives consult with members to determine if their school is ready to participate in NAPLAN Online next year. If not, Reps should hold a workplace meeting and request a directive from the QTU for members to not participate in the NAPLAN Online tests in 2020.