Change of direction for NAPLAN campaign
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 1, 12 February 2021, page no.9
The Industrial Court’s order in January that the Union should drop its directive against NAPLAN does not end the QTU’s campaign to end NAPLAN in its current form - it merely turns it in another direction.
It is clear that NAPLAN adds little to student outcomes, and yet it is held in such regard by others, including the state government, which, despite commitments to end NAPLAN, sought an injunction from the Industrial Relations Commission to block the directive.
A cynic might suggest that this is because, despite successive reviews demonstrating that NAPLAN as it currently exists must end, the federal funding agreement requires the conduct of the test. However, if it was a simple as this then why the pressure on QTU members to not only conduct the test but also to prepare for it?
Despite statements such as “Schools – through direct contact and their school websites – are best placed to provide up-to-date information about their context, their students, their wider community and the enriching learning experiences they offer to students and staff” , one can only think that the department and the government see the test as a measure of teacher, school leader and school performance.
But the Industrial Court has made its decision – what can we do now?
The answer is simple – implement the NAPLAN joint statement. So, in accordance with the joint statement, members are advised that no activities associated with NAPLAN should be performed unless it is in close proximity to the conduct of the tests themselves.
Furthermore, implementing the joint statement means that the following activities (if members are told to perform them) should also cease:
- use of NAPLAN results for enrolment
- use of NAPLAN data as evidence in recruitment and selection
- issuing of “awards” for NAPLAN achievement
- reporting on NAPLAN results
- use of NAPLAN data in annual performance reviews
- repeated or regular NAPLAN practice tests
- pre-tests to capture data for the purpose of shaping teaching and learning specifically related to NAPLAN.
The joint statement also states that student wellbeing is paramount. Consequently, if you believe that a student’s (or in fact a member’s) wellbeing is being compromised by NAPLAN related activities, these should also cease.
In its state election commitments to the QTU, the state government recognised and acknowledged the concerns expressed by the QTU, our members and parents in relation to NAPLAN and committed to advocate for its replacement. This commitment needs to become a reality. Members are encouraged to contact their local MPs and ask them when they will take action to deliver on this commitment.
NAPLAN is not mandatory
It is not mandatory for students to take the test. As evidenced last year, no student was harmed by not doing NAPLAN, but successive reviews have shown that, as a high-stakes standardised test, it can affect student and member wellbeing.
One way to address this is for members and parents to withdraw their children from the test. This can be done by writing to the school and advising them that you do not wish your child to sit NAPLAN.
These approaches will disrupt the 2021 test and demonstrate that NAPLAN as it currently exists has to go.
Does NAPLAN hold schools accountable?
Despite what some politicians and associations would have you believe, the answer is “no”.
The NAPLAN joint statement says: “The QTU and department acknowledge that NAPLAN only provides information in relation to literacy and numeracy, and only to the extent assessed in each test.” To suggest that NAPLAN is a measure of accountability demonstrates a shallow understanding of education in Queensland.
Queensland schools are held accountable in many ways, including the following.
- Every year schools publish annual implementation plans on their websites and outline their priorities and how invest for success funds are to be used.
- At least every four years, Queensland state schools participate in a school review. As well as affirming and commending schools on how they support student learning and develop an expert teaching team, they also recommend changes to support school improvement.
- Schools report on student progress in written form twice a year and provide face-to-face reporting opportunities at least twice a year.
- Schools provide the department with many data sets, including student achievement, attendance including student disciplinary absences, enrolments, QCE attainment, Closing the Gap data etc (this is not an exhaustive list).