NAPLAN tri-state review - interim report released
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 125 No 1, 21 February 2020, page no. 8
The interim report of the tri-state review into NAPLAN provides much food for thought as reviewers contemplate possible alternatives to the current NAPLAN regime of testing in years three, five, seven and nine.
The report, released in December, followed a review led by leading academics Barry McGaw, William Louden and Claire Wyatt-Smith into the purpose of standardised testing and the concerns about NAPLAN and its unintended consequences that have evolved since its inception. The reviewers have consulted with the QTU and teaching practitioners to find out what educators think about NAPLAN and its future in education.
While delegates at QTU Biennial Conference in July last year reasserted the QTU view that NAPLAN and its high stakes testing regime should be abolished, in the interim some alternatives are under consideration.
The interim report notes that the purpose of NAPLAN and the uses of the data have changed over time, and have ultimately shifted the test’s focus to improvement, as opposed to simply providing a status report on the child’s development.
The report is critical of the writing task and identifies deficiencies such as the move to online testing, as well as the high stakes nature of the test and the inappropriate publishing of student league tables based on results taken from the MySchool website.
The reviewers acknowledge the narrowing of the curriculum and the excessive time spent on practice and prototype testing as rehearsals for the actual NAPLAN tests. The delay in teachers receiving student results is also criticised.
Opportunities for change
The reviewers have shared their preliminary thoughts about changes that could be made to the assessments. These include changing the timing of NAPLAN to the start of the year, with the test being undertaken in late February or early March, and making it online only, doing away with the pen and paper test.
Changing the content to review what is tested, with a focus on general capabilities, might also be an option, and limiting the test to one episode during primary school and one episode during secondary school might be more appropriate.
Lowering the exposure of results
Reducing the information on the MySchool website to a single page or removing results completely from the website might have an impact. As would making NAPLAN a sample test, as opposed to a census test, which the QTU also supports.
Making NAPLAN a survey to which students could opt in would lessen the high stakes nature of the test.
Many of these ideas are yet to be fully explored however, with the final report due to be handed down in June. The QTU will develop a more detailed position in response to these proposals then, including update of the QTU’s NAPLAN position statement.
Delegates will discuss the NAPLAN Review Interim Report at QTU State Council in March and determine any future action in relation to NAPLAN.
The tri-state review was conducted by the Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian Governments after 10 years of NAPLAN testing, following Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan’s refusal to undertake an urgent national review of NAPLAN.
In the meantime, the Queensland Education Minister ensured that all schools were aware that there was no pressure to participate in the NAPLAN Online test this year, resulting in more than 100 schools delaying implementation until 2021. The Queensland Government should also be acknowledged for diminishing the high stakes nature of the results by removing NAPLAN results from the headline indicators.