NAPLAN data can be an extremely useful tool for schools as it provides some valuable data on how well students have grasped some of the fundamental skills of learning. This data can then be used to support future teaching and learning activities and allow teachers to target specific areas of strength and weakness of their students. Teachers regularly seek feedback and data from their students learning and NAPLAN is another source of this data. If the data is considered in perspective and is not considered the be all and end all of teaching then it can be valuable data for teachers.

In my thinking the value one places on NAPLAN data will correlate with how important they think the skills that are being assessed are, and how valid and reliable the data is considered to be. The argument against the validity and reliability of the data is that it is a one off test on one day and student performance would be affected by tiredness, sickness, motivation etc. Fair points indeed but if teachers are using their own data to compare with NAPLAN and using this the validate their own testing then they will have a fair idea of whether a student has had a bad day and can consider this in using the data. In regards to the importance of the skills that are being assessed – for me they are important. Reading, writing, comprehension and numeracy are skills that underpin learning and we are far more likely to be able to achieve our loftier learning goals if we have students with a good grasp of the basics. For me it does not have to be one or the other in regards to ‘basic skills’ or ’21st century learning skills’. We can have, and really need both.

Myschool is where it all falls apart for me. League table type comparisons can be extremely harmful and turn what is a diagnostic test that can provide useful data for teachers, into a high stakes test that causes everyone to lose focus of what the test is actually for. Once we make NAPLAN our central learning goal then we have problems as it can lead teachers and schools to teach to the test, modify teaching practice to suit the tests and narrow the curriculum so more time can be spent practicing and preparing for the test (amongst many other problems). There are very real consequences to the publishing of these results that are most harmful to those most in need of help and support.

My issue is not with the NAPLAN tests but with the myschool website. Get rid of it and we have a useful tool. But if we are stuck with myschool then I think as teachers we need to do our best use the data where we can, ask questions and reflect on what we do and move forward without tying ourselves down to the high stakes testing mentality. We need to find ways to address these basic skills using a wide range of teaching and learning styles and philosophies and share best practice in doing so. For example, how are teachers who are using a project based learning approach addressing these basic skills in their teaching and learning that work for them and their students.

The unfortunate reality is that ‘myschool’ puts a lot of pressure on principals and teachers to get results fast and this can lead to all of the negatives talked about above.


One Response

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by bradmcallister. bradmcallister said: @Brett_Moller clarification of my current view of naplan 🙂 […]

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