NAPLAN: sample over census
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 4, 28 May 2021, page no.11
With NAPLAN 2021 behind us, the issues that the QTU has raised in recent months around the national test remain.
In many ways, the COVID-19 hiatus of 2020 has served to highlight the issues and the ability of schools to continue to thrive without the data (and workload) associated with the annual activity.
So, in the context of an ongoing desire for “quality assurance” of the Australian education system and bipartisan support for standardised testing at the federal level, how can we effect change?
Our member ballots on NAPLAN industrial action, as well as the survey undertaken this year, have consistently demonstrated that our members do not support NAPLAN in its current form. So, what does an alternative look like?
We continue to argue that the “high-stakes” nature of the test can be significantly minimised if the test is of a random sample of students (rather than the current “census” model where all students in the target years participate unless parents opt-out on behalf of their child). This aligns with the original purpose of NAPLAN, which was to provide feedback and system-level data to guide decisions on policy and funding.
A move away from the current model of testing would address many members’ concerns over the high-stakes nature of the current NAPLAN regime, including:
- emphasis on NAPLAN preparation/readiness activities that add even more to an already over-loaded curriculum
- judgement of schools and teachers on the basis of NAPLAN results (often at the expense of other quantitative and qualitative data)
- pressure on school leaders to justify their leadership with NAPLAN data and strategies, as well as its use in promotional job applications.
To this end, we will continue to push for significant changes and will be seeking member assistance in engaging with state and federal MPs through delegations.
While NAPLAN is a federal issue, it is also subject to agreement and discussion at the Education Council (comprised of all state Education Ministers and the Federal Education Minister). Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace has committed to pushing for an alternative to the current standardised testing regime, and we will continue to seek more support for this until NAPLAN as we know it is gone.